Verizon: Why can’t you hear me now?

There are few things more disturbing than being a victim of credit fraud. I have twice had my credit card number stolen (not my card, mind you, just the number). My card issuer has been great both times. They sent me a new card overnight and I was not responsible for any of the fraudulent charges.

But the biggest hassle by far is updating my credit card information with all the merchants with whom I have registered for automatic payments, reward programs, quick checkout, etc.  Cable, travel agent, Amazon, etc.  I have about 20 of these. I learned my lesson the first time this happened and I now keep a handy list of all these businesses. So the second time I was a victim, I just went down the list and updated them one at a time. Simple, right? Think again.

Some businesses make it easy to update my credit card information. One easy-to-find web page and I’m done. Netflix was a snap. Others make this process more difficult. The company that hauls my trash had to mail me a paper form that I needed to fill out and mail back in. Yucky.

But no one, I repeat NO ONE, made this process as difficult as Verizon Wireless. I first went to the website and logged into the tangled morass of web pages they call “my account”. When I finally found the place to update my billing information, I got a message saying that I was not currently enrolled in automated billing. That’s funny, then why are they automatically charging my credit card every month?

I called customer service. After a half hour of being transferred and holding, I got to the right person. Their explanation? I couldn’t update my billing information online because I had originally enrolled for automatic payment over the phone. Come again? “They can’t access our information and we can’t access theirs.”

I’m sorry, did I hear you right? “We”? “They”? Aren’t you talking about one company here?

Because of the channel apartheid at Verizon Wireless, I actually had to cancel my automatic payment over the phone and re-enroll online!

When I do business with a company, I want to do business with that company, not with their call center, not with their website, not with their mailbox. What many firms fail to realize is that strong customer relationships depend on being able to recognize and serve those customers through any channel the customer wants, when they want. Organizations whose systems and processes fail to support that relationship model are doomed to lose the battle for customer loyalty.

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