Over the past decade, I've been able to watch how two different communications providers conduct operations in the Northern Virginia area. Cox Communication and Verizon both deliver dial tone services to my house, while Cox has been my selection for broadband. Two traits set them apart: Customer service and proactive maintenance.
Over the past decade, I've had to deal with Verizon twice on simple dial tone issues. The first time, I had to move phone numbers almost literally across the street, in the same zip code, same central office, to a known working copper dial tone in transfer. Verizon needed a technician to come over and "install" the "new" phone line, so I sat around for eight hours waiting. Nobody came, nobody called.
After talking to two different dispatch people, I finally got a hold of a supervisor, who said there had been an order mistake in the system, and sorry, but we can't get anyone out there for another two weeks. After much cajoling, I managed to convince the supervisor to switch one line over without dispatching a technician.
Cox came out a month later to move the second phone line over from Verizon service. The company gave me a two hour service window, showed up on time, and took about an hour in total to install new hardware—this was back in the days when Cox was using dedicated gear for dial-tone, connecting directly to the household wiring.
Dial tone is one of the basic services of any communications company. Cox delivered a tech within three days of the call and the techs moved the phone number from one network to another in an hour, where Verizon had blown the first service call and spent a week before scheduling someone out on the follow-up.
A couple years later, the dial tone on the Verizon line went out. I filed a service call on Monday, was told that it would take up to five days to have a tech out to fix it. By Friday morning, I was at wit's end and filed an on-line complaint with the Virginia regulators. Verizon had techs on site by 2 PM, a patch in by 4 PM and someone on Sunday to pull new wire. Because the issue was flagged by Virginia regulators, Verizon pulled out the stops to get the problem resolved and off the state watch list.
Shortly thereafter, our neighborhood became the target of Verizon FiOS promotions. Advertising implied FiOS would be more reliable than copper, but what Verizon didn't say is that the company still would take five to seven days to send out a technician if something goes wrong, as compared to the next day and two hour window offered in a Cox repair call.
Proactive maintenance is something that I've never seen before from any communications provider. I recently upgraded to Cox's Contour DVR/on-demand package. During the installation, the technician scheduled a replacement for my older coaxial cable. I would have preferred to get fiber, but still, it's the concept that counts. Putting in the new cable proactively means Cox gets rid of potential future problems and doesn't leave the customer waiting for a day without service.
Verizon's approach to its consumers seems to be "If you order FiOS, we'll give it to you. But you have to order it. Otherwise, your copper will break and you're stuck until we get out there to fix the copper and convince you to move to fiber." Presumably there are regulatory reasons to this passive-aggressive approach, but it doesn't fix the fact that Verizon has a wait-until-it-dies philosophy to its existing copper plant.
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