While most employees celebrate Fridays as the gateway to the weekend, June 27 was a brutal day (and night) to be a call center agent for Verizon Wireless.
Thanks to a massive outage related to an unspecified “billing system issue,” agents from North Carolina to Arkansas and beyond were powerless to assist callers with payment questions, phone activations and new phone purchase requests, leaving the workers to repeatedly apologize. The same functions and others on the website were also knocked out.
Though an outage with a back office system may not seem too damaging, remember that billing and network operations are arguably the two lifeblood functions for service providers of all shapes and sizes. The fact that it impacted devices sales worsens matter as that is another revenue source. The company was quick to claim it wasn’t hacked.
Customers calling in or hitting My Verizon on the Verizon Wireless website were met with “system temporarily unavailable” greetings and told to “call back later.” No other information was provided nor available during the outage, which left call center agents between a rock and a very hard spot –angry customers.
Customer service agents claimed not all callers understood that the agents were powerless to help them during the outages and that many had become upset.
The wireless giant did mid-day Saturday email those customers who visited it website to access My Verizon saying the disrupted functions were now available and apologized, but did not provide any information on the reason for or cause of the paralyzing outage, leaving customers to wonder and worry about what had transpired.
Given that paying bills online is a heavily promoted feature of My Verizon (there are numerous others) and that questions about bills (and late fees) can be a particularly sore spot for customers, Verizon Wireless’ detail-empty email Saturday and comments to the press are frustrating as they only confirm the event and offer nearly nothing else to wondering customers.
While the outage will very likely not have a crippling effect on the provider’s bottom line – customers will still pay their bills and suffice to buy new phones a few days or so later, the often longer-term stigma of being having non-network outages in revenue-critical customer sales operations is a negative.
Verizon Wireless has fared well in customer satisfaction surveys, taking the top spot in the Consumer Reports study released last November. The provider has also finished well in network performance-related rankings and studies.
Though Verizon Wireless is not on the list, companies in several industries charge customers a fee for their paper invoice (and thus for not using online options) upping the ante in the intended migration of customers to online bill pay which is cheaper and typically more efficient for vendors.
Regardless of the cause of the outage, June 27 was not a TGIF-type day for Verizon call center agents working any shift, until they punched out.
Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC
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