My internet service went down Sunday night. Verizon’s messages about the outage seemed to emanate from a twilight zone where time and reality have no meaning.
I’m a Verizon FiOS customer. FiOS is extremely reliable — it’s never gone down in over five years. That’s good, because my business, my family’s work, and all my entertainment depend on that connection.
While I was sleeping on Sunday night, my internet stopped working. I quickly determined that the problem was not in my home. Then I called 800-VERIZON and got an automated message about the restoration of service.
When I checked Verizon’s online service site at 9 am Monday (using my AT&T mobile phone as a WiFi hotspot), here’s what it said:
- Service interruption: 9:42 pm Sunday 06/06/2021
- Technicians identify service problem: 6:45 am Monday 06/07/2021
- Technicians begin repair work: 9:44 pm Sunday 06/06/2021
- Service restored: estimated 12:45 pm Monday 06/07/2021
So Verizon’s system reported that its technicians began work nine hours before they identified the problem. Apparently they have access to a time machine.
Verizon’s updates were completely unrelated to reality
According to an outage site I checked and what I overheard from a five-year-old talking to a friend on my morning walk, the outage was affecting multiple people — but Verizon shared nothing about that. Instead, they updated me during the day through emails, text messages, and notifications from the Verizon app. Members of my family counted on those updates; for example, my daughter rearranged her online tutoring sessions around those predictions.
I never spoke to a human — the customer service automated responses said that the reps would have no more information to share. But if those reps were looking at the same information I was getting, I feel for them. None of the systems appeared to have any relationship to each other, or to reality.
Here’s a list of the updates I received and what Verizon reported in two separate online systems: its trouble ticket and its outage update at verizon.com/outage:
- 9 am Monday: Trouble ticket states service “restoral” estimated at 12:30 pm.
- 12:35 pm Monday: Trouble ticket updated; service to be restored at 12:45 pm.
- 1:34 pm Monday. Trouble ticket still reports 12:45 pm service restoral despite outage continuing. But Verizon app notification and outage tracker say restoral will now take place at 5:30am the following day. (The trouble ticket never updated after this, continuing to “predict” service would be restored at a time that had already passed.)
- 10:15 pm Monday: Service restored; no update notification from Verizon.
- 8:00 am Tuesday: Outage system “predicts” service, which is now working fine, will be restored by 9:30 pm.
- 1:00 pm Tuesday. Text message reports service restored.
These systems are a customer experience disaster
I have no problem with Verizon’s actual FiOS service. The speed is excellent. The reliability is excellent. It handles more than a dozen devices on my network without trouble. And until now, it never went down.
I’m not even all that upset that the estimated repair times shifted. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to predict how long it will take to find and fix a problem in a network.
What bothers me is the incomprehensible communications.
The acid test for customer experience is what happens when something goes wrong. As usual, the problem is far deeper than just “treat the customer right.” The problem is in the systems.
Why did Verizon’s outage tracker report events in a sequence that would have required a time machine?
Why did the trouble ticket and the outage tracker report different predictions?
Why did the notifications and text messages appear at different times with different predictions?
Why didn’t the system notify me as soon as service was restored?
Why did the system continue to predict repair times after the service was restore?
And finally, who thought “restoral” was a word?
Perhaps the correct URL for the outage system should be verizon.com/outrage.
Verizon needs an overhaul of its customer service reporting systems for outages. True, customers interact with such systems less than the systems that actually deliver internet service. But given the critical nature of internet connectivity and the emotional state of people suffering a problem, fixing the reporting systems ought to be a customer experience priority.
3 responses to “Verizon FiOS manipulates time and reality — and still mangles the customer experience”
We had the same situation with AT&T in Sept of 2019 in a Cleveland suburb. A straight line windstorm took down massive trees in our neighborhood. We were without electricity for five days (!!) and without our fiber optic service for 10 days. (And this is in the U.S. Kinda hard to believe, right?) While the employees working to untangle and restore the communication lines were great, the loss of service was difficult to near impossible to report. Incredibly frustrated, I tweeted out my outrage. Then comms professionals in Chicago were quick to direct-message me to take me “off the air.” Yet they failed to understand the complexity of the damage (regular copper cable was easily fixed; fiber optic was another matter) and I had to push hard to receive credits for the lack of service. Like you, we appreciate the speed of our fiber optic service and its reliability, but the customer service aspect is just woeful.
As for power outages in our lovely Shaker Heights location: the lines and infrastructure are aging and we have frequent power outages. So last year we installed a Generac that powers the whole house when First Energy cuts out. When you see backup generators listed as a “feature” in real estate listings, you know something bad is going on with the reliability of our electrical supply.
Love your newsletter!
i *wholeheartedly* agree with this. this is always my sticking point with businesses. “how is your customer service when something goes wrong?” is a large part of my overall satisfaction with someone i’m doing business with. i have had countless such exchanges. sometimes, i even document them, just because it gets so ridiculous, i have to refer back to notes and names to track “support”.
Public internet service has been around for close to 30 years and I have dealt with numerous ISPs over that time frame. Never have I had a good “customer service experience” during an outage. Never. ISPs don’t care about no stinking customer satisfaction. Collectively they constitute an oligopoly and they won’t give a rat’s ass about your customer experience until they are properly regulated as public utilities