Dear Mr. or Ms. CEOs, CMOs, VPs, and anyone who has influence on these companies,

Re: The transition of service was a train wreck in customer experience.

I believe you, like most leaders in companies, do really care about your respected brand. I see evidence of this daily in the investments you make in your communications and marketing, your technology, and your people. I know you understand that what your customers feel, think, and vent to their network impacts your employee moral, shareholder confidence, and your bottom line.

[tweet_box design=”default”]Every company has bad days and bad weeks. Things go wrong—crap happens. It’s what you do next that matters.[/tweet_box]

Not every moment can be perfect. Hopefully on the off situations you take away some valuable brand lessons.

I’m a customer of both Verizon and now Frontier Communications, and the past week and half  I was unfortunately part of one of those bad times.

Trusting the celestial power of positive thinking, I lit the technology candle every night last week and wished for a better situation for you, your companies and the millions of people like me.

The bad day started like any other. I fired up my computers, turned on the news, and looked to see if I had messages on my office phone. Nothing worked. No internet, no TV, no office phone.

Unaware of a deal that had just closed where Verizon Fios sold a chunk of its service market to a company called Frontier Communications, I tried to reach my provider, Verizon—the mother brand. I’ve been a loyal Verizon customer for some time; in fact it’s been over 28 years.

After waiting on hold for over two hours, I learned via a computer attendant, Sorry Verizon Fios no longer serves your area. Good bye and have a swell day.

I was shocked. I had no idea that a sale was going down. I had just purchased a bunch of new equipment and upgraded my service package, all from a company that was merely a technology provider brand from the past, GONE.

Fortunately, I have insurance for days like this. It’s called a back up, Jetpack, or portable hot spot. So while I could work, my hardline Internet was MIA, the land phone lines were still silent and I had no broadcast services.

Like many moments of high stress and life uncertainty, I resort to my trusted friend and advisor, Mr. Google, to find out what the heck is going on.  In just 3 seconds he confirmed the worst; I was a victim of big brand disappointment and an outage caused by service transfer troubles with Frontier Communications, new owner of Verizon Fios.

Long story short. It took 12 days and least 20 hours  of my time to get my service back.
Yes companies have bad days, but it did not need to be this ugly, painful, and brand damaging to both players. A little customer consideration and communication management before and during “when the crap happens” goes along way.

I hope that this counsel will fall under “lessons gained” and that next time a situation like this will be handled differently.

Four branding perils to avoid if you truly care about your customers.

[tweet_box design=”default”]Communicate big change before it happens. To your employees, customers and other constituents.[/tweet_box]

1) Soft communication.
FOR Verizon leadership, for all that you spend on that beautiful direct mailing you regularly send to customers along with their monthly bill to try to up-sell your services, next time budget just little more. Maybe an extra stamp for a snail mail notification to customers when a major change is taking place, a text message or even an email. Make change communication loud and clear.

And since your customers are regularly told that your website is the place to look for answers to common issues, a banner on there would be helpful. The level of communications you took during the move, reeked of no foresight and little compassion for customers you had long-term relationships with. It’s kind of like telling a girl you are dumping her through a friend, instead of with letting her know with a direct conversation. It’s just good manners.

2) Poorly organized messages.
Remember the digital lady’s voice that informed loyal customers that you no longer cover a service area? How about moving the message up, so the customer knows what’s going on before they sit on hold for an hour. And when that annoying brainless computer voice does break the news, provide a simple micro site with updated information focused on customers who are struggling in the stress pit with you. Clear apologies, thank you messages, and better communication could simmer down that boiling feeling of brand betrayal.

[tweet_box design=”default”]Remember, it costs less to keep a customer that to find a new one.[/tweet_box]

3) Losing sight of the life span of customers and next year they can be your customers again through another business deal.
Think beyond this deal, with all of the ever changing technology world mergers and acquisitions, your reputation with customers is a long-term and on-going relationship, plus you may be servicing them with a brand like Verizon Wireless. Don’t burn bridges.

[tweet_box design=”default”]First impressions last a long time.[/tweet_box]

4) Dress rehearsals, they are for theater not customer experiences.
Frontier Communications leadership, considering that you’ve gone down this road before and hit some similar rough bumps, a communication and service strategy should have been prepared. How about a welcome note to your new customers? And why no landing page with outage and service updates? If there was one, it was not easy for new customers to locate.

5) Tweet service—also known as lip service.
It’s great you have invested in a social media team. That’s a good start. But revolving team shifts on Twitter (the AM crew, the PM crew) that are not informed on outage situations, customer problems and true updates, is just as bad as not having any one in the bird cage chirping. Empower your social media team to really assist, not just pass out tissues to wipe away the tears or sweat. I was asked three time for my account info and had to repeat my problem each time. Other than a few notes of we are trying, every social media staffer seemed clueless.

Every brand looks for ways to stand out and be loved. When you know a storm could be headed your way, have a plan you’ve practiced and communicate to all stakeholders, the media and your employees.  If you missed this window, do an extraordinary job of rebuilding the relationship, owning the hit, and fairly compensating all that were negatively impacted.

Karen Post