Bamboozled: February 15: Fixing mistakes a hallmark of strong customer service

Everyone makes mistakes.

We’re only human, after all.

Companies make mistakes too. That, by itself, isn’t such a big deal.

What is a big deal is how a company handles a mistake. How it treats a customer when it learns about a problem.

How it makes things right.

Katie O’Neal said Verizon Wireless made a mistake when O’Neal bought a new phone and service for her 11-year-old daughter Jackie.

But when she addressed the mistake with customer service, she said she couldn’t get anywhere.

It started when O’Neal used the Verizon Wireless website to buy the phone as a Christmas present.

She placed the order online on Dec. 8, documents show.

“The cell phone was placed in my cart for 99 cents and in addition, it outlined the contract I would have,” O’Neal said. “The contract indicated that for talk and text I would be charged $20 each month for the next 24 months.”

O’Neal said she was surprised at the price because she already pays $40 per month for the same services for a different line.

She called Verizon to ask about the pricing before she placed the order, she said.

“I was informed that if it was in my cart that it was probably accurate, so I went ahead with the purchase,” she said.

A short time later, O’Neal received an email confirmation with the same pricing details.

Her receipt also showed the same 99 cents for the phone and $20 per month for talk and text for the next 24 months.

When Christmas arrived, Jackie O’Neal opened her present, and she and her mom called Verizon to activate the phone. They got it activated, and Verizon made another change, too.

“I learned later on that when they activated the phone on Christmas, they put my daughter on a $40 a month talk and text plan,” Katie O’Neal said.

But that wasn’t right according to all the documentation, so O’Neal started with customer service.

No matter who she talked to, it seemed, Verizon wasn’t going to honor the price O’Neal agreed to per her contract and her receipt.

“They have all indicated that there was a glitch in the system and they will not honor the $20 a month plan,” she said. “The supervisors even acknowledge that they see my customer receipt indicating the $20 a month plan for 24 months.”

The only offer O’Neal received after speaking to four different supervisors was a strange pricing switcheroo. The supervisor said she could pay $20 per month for the talk and text plan, but she’d then have to pay $19 per month for the phone, O’Neal said.

“I explained that this was basically the same amount as the $40 a month talk and text plan and that I was not satisfied with this,” O’Neal said.

She said the last supervisor said the problem would be sent to the “escalation department,” but after a week’s review, nothing had changed.

“The supervisor called me back and indicated that it was a glitch on their end, but they would not honor my contract,” O’Neal said.

For O’Neal’s efforts, that seemed to be the end of the line.

Bamboozled reviewed O’Neal’s paperwork, and we asked Verizon to review the case.

It came back with a resolution in a matter of hours: to honor the pricing in the contract without adding any additional costs.

“We made an honest mistake, and we should have worked with the customer immediately upon learning that to come up with a solution,” spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said. “We have apologized to the customer and let her know how much we value her business.”

O’Neal was thrilled with the outcome, and Bamboozled was glad to see a company step up and do the right thing.

It’s something we’d like to see more often.

Have you had a good customer service experience with a company? Share it in the comments section below.

HELPING ANOTHER CUSTOMER

While we were talking to Verizon about O’Neal’s case, we received another message about the company.

Tim Van Meter of Hopewell Township said he’s been trying to get broadband service at his family farm.

The location doesn’t get service from any internet provider, and Van Meter was frustrated.

“Verizon FiOS stops just six telephone poles away and they will not run it to us or our neighbors,” Van Meter said.

We contacted Tom Maguire, Verizon’s senior vice president for national operations support, who has been our go-to guy with consumer complaints about the company. Maguire long ago offered to help anyone who wrote to Bamboozled with a problem, even if it wasn’t for publication.

Maguire and the New Jersey team came through for Van Meter.

Maguire said he asked Paul Sullivan, the company’s regional president in New Jersey, to check out the location, and Sullivan had a team of engineers investigate if there was actually fiber six poles away from the home.

The team did find a fiber terminal, Maguire said, but it did not have any spare fiber capacity.

It took a few days, but the team figured out a way to free up a fiber for the customer, he said.

“They then ran a service wire the six pole sections — I believe this was over 1,200 feet — between the terminal and the customer’s home and delivered a FiOS Triple Play,” he said.

The initial problem was that service facilities actually ended about a quarter of a mile from Van Meter’s farm, Maguire said.

Van Meter confirmed he now has service.

“It took approximately 11 hours on Tuesday for FiOS internet and four hours Wednesday for FiOS TV and phone service,” Van Meter said. “So far, so good. It was definitely worth the wait. Overnight, our technological and educational capabilities were catapulted into modern times. ”

Thanks to Maguire and the team at Verizon for helping this customer.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.

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