Verizon’s 3Q08 numbers reveal great progress for FiOS. They added 233K new FiOS TV customers and 225K new FiOS Internet customers, both of which fueled a 45% gain in broadband and video revenues over the previous year. Penetration rates are 19.7% for FiOS TV and 24.2 % for FiOS Internet – impressive numbers. The earnings release had all the typical fanfare and chest bumping rhetoric about how fantastic everything is. Do you feel a “But” coming on? Here it is. Verizon has a FIOS customer service problem that is brewing under the surface, which if not addressed, could come back to haunt them. A Google search for “FiOS Customer Service Problems” yielded me 477K results. Substitute Comcast for FiOS and you get 265K. Granted, not a scientific study, but you get my point.
The reality is it’s not the sheer numbers that are the problem. The vast majority of FiOS service orders go off without a hitch, resulting in satisfied customers. But from my observation, the minority of customers who have a problem, enter some form of “FiOS customer service hell,” desperately looking for a way out. I count myself as one of the helpless souls. I’ve heard anecdotally about FiOS customer service problems over the past couple years, but now I’ve experienced it. Verizon – you have a problem. You’ve spent considerable resources on automating much of the process, which I realize is necessary for an undertaking of this scale. But when those systems break down, and a customer gets caught in them, there is no way out. You’re left in some type of FiOS purgatory, which causes you to spend hours upon hours on the phone with CSR’s who are unable (or inept) to solve a problem. Here are two consistent problems that my rudimentary research revealed – you have serious problems with number porting from online orders and your billing system is wreaking havoc with too many customers. I suspect Verizon execs dismiss a “FiOS customer service problem” exists, since the majority of customers are being attended to just fine. But I sense some potential damage to the Verizon and FiOS brands, if not addressed. There are a lot of frustrated people out there who talk to a lot of other people, creating what appears to be a groundswell of negative perception. You may want to put “the network” and “that guy” on the case. If not, you may find yourself a year or so down the road, scratching your head trying to figure out where all that FiOS progress went.