Not yet for Verizon, but Sprint this time.

Verizon has contacted me to resolve my issue (I sent them an email the other day), so I’ll see what they do before posting about the experience. I’m also working on an interview with Verizon – it won’t talk about my experience directly, but it will talk about what Verizon is doing to prevent similar things from happening.

However, I do have a story about Sprint/Nextel to tell. I wish I had had a video camera or a tape recorder.

Yesterday I went out to find a possible alternative cellphone. My local mall has several cellphone stores in it and my first stop was at Sprint. While I was experimenting with the very nice Palm Treo, a customer went up to desk and asked for help. Seems like a typical request, right?

Right, but there was a problem: there were about six other customers that also had questions. The store employee (who will call John and I imagine was the manager) told the customer (calling him Bob) that he was helping other people and would be with him as soon as possible. That’s when the issues began.

On the customer’s side, I have to say that John’s attitude was not as friendly or helping as it could have been. The better thing to say would have been something along the lines of “Sir, once I’m finished working with these customers, I’d be delighted to help you. I just need a few minutes and I’ll be right with you.” It’s hard to basically tell a customer to wait, but there are better ways to say things.

From the manager’s perspective, there are always going to be inconsiderate customers. Bob was not the perfect customer by any means – he was rude and inconsiderate. However, his actions weren’t that bad and he was manageable.

After having John basically tell him to wait, Bob said he had just a question or something of that nature. The manager, this time a bit more rudely said he was helping other customers and would be with him as soon as possible. John said he didn’t want to wait 40 minutes.

This is another area where the manager didn’t do what he should have done. The manager said “I didn’t say that. You are assuming that. I didn’t tell you you’d have to wait 40 minutes.” As a representative, it’s a bad idea to shift blame to an upset customer. It will almost always set them off even more.

What the manager should have said was: “Sir, I’m confident you won’t have to wait 40 minutes. If you don’t mind waiting for a couple of minutes, I will be right with you.” It doesn’t blame anyone and reinforces that the employee does want to help the customer.

Since the manager didn’t say the right thing, it got the customer going even more. I don’t recall exactly what was said after that, but the events basically went like this:

  1. Customer asks for help while employee is busy.
  2. Employee says he will help the customer in a moment.
  3. Customer insists he “just has a question” and doesn’t want to wait.
  4. Employee reiterates he is helping another customer.
  5. Both customer/employee get frustrated.
  6. Customer gets somewhat rude. (I don’t recall exactly what he said.)
  7. Employee asks customer to leave.
  8. They continue to argue. Employee again asks customer to leave.
  9. Customer calls employee a “loser” as he leaves.

The way it was handled was quite childish of the customer and poorly handled by the manager. If the customer started to get rude or act inappropriate, the manager should have excused himself and discussed the issue privately (and briefly) with the customer (as opposed to yelling it across the store).

I hope this post illustrates how different an experience can be (even when dealing with an irrational/rude customer) if it’s well handled by the employee. All it takes is a combination of little things to make a big difference.

It seems as if I’m on a telecom company kick the last few days. These phone companies seem to be even worse than the banks. Do note, I have never been a customer of Sprint/Nextel. This was just something I overheard while I was at the Sprint store.