Can You Hear Me Now?

by Jay Deragon on 02/02/2008

Can You Hear Me Now?Most of us are familiar with the Verizon advertisement theme “Can You Hear Me Now?“. This ad is a perfect example to use when we talk about the potential power of swarms of people engaged in the social web discussing a particular brands performance.

I’ve been using Verizon for three years. My average monthly bill runs over $300 a month, I live on my cell phone. My recent bill came in with a flyer promoting the new Blackberry 8130 of which I’ve been wanting to eventually get. The flyer promoted a deal which enabled me to get that phone at roughly 50% of the normal retail price as long as I signed a new two year contract (catch #1).

So I decided I would call the 800 number to inquiry about the deal. (catch #2). I called only to get an automated message “Thank you for calling our operators are all busy but the next available agent will be with you shortly”. I counted, four minutes later after listening to recorded advertisements about how much the customer meant to Verizon. I finally get a real person on the line. I asked about the promotion then said “can I go down to the store around the corner and get the new Blackberry, activated and my existing phone number and contact list moved over to the new phone? The quick answer was NO, (catch #3!).

The person on the other end (who never gave me her name) went on to tell me this deal is only available either on line or by calling this number. If you go to our retail store you’ll have to pay the full price (catch #4). OK, what is wrong with this picture? Wasn’t I talking to Verizon, the same one whose name is on the local store?

The lady, again with no name, went on and explained the “deal” to me“(catch #5), the terms and conditions of the deal and what I would have to do to get the deal (jump through a whole bunch of hoops (catch #6) and waste my time telling them things and filling out forms of which they already should have all the information since I was already a customer, or at least thought I was.

This whole conversation took forty minutes of my time and at the end frustrated, angry and shocked I simply said no thank you. Can you relate to this story? We’re sure you can.

Verizon is not alone

This example represents a systemic problem is every Fortune 500 company’s inability to think, act and serve the interest and needs of the customer and is the same across every company regardless of industry. True or False? The silo mentality, lack of respect for the customer’s time and “tricks of their trade” is the root cause that fuels the attraction of the social web. Real people having real and responsive conversations with other real people about anything, everything and everybody.

Now consider people forming into groups named after each of the Fortune 500 brands , discussing similar experiences and collectively revealing (conversational rivers) the stupidity with a large and loud voice. One would hope that there may also be positive conversations expressing customer experiences that were delighter’s but likely those would be few and far between. Now imagine a web with no walls, free flowing and “open” to seamless connectivity between people, one to one to millions. What influence would this freedom, this openness have on corporate performance, vendor relations (heard of VRM?), wall street performance measures and overall markets?

Guess what, it is already a movement and soon to be revealed even with today’s current limitations of the social web. Soon people will be able to organize easily, seamlessly around affinities of interest without jumping from one silo to another. Soon the collective influence of the customers voice will be felt and heard around the globe, no longer hidden or intermediated by walled gardens rather reinter mediated by the customer, the people. the individuals.

There is a power shift swelling like a Tsunami wave. Right now it may not be visible however the under currents of the social web are creating the “oceanic plates to shift” thus sending a tremor through the foundations of conversational rivers flowing through today’s web. Corporations and institutions are not ready nor aware of the approaching wave which can’t be resisted given its force and momentum.

Stay tuned and we’ll tell you and show you where the plates are shifting and the waves are forming. You just may want to jump in and accelerate the shift. Can you hear us now?

What say you?

{ 2 comments }

Tom February 2, 2008 at 9:43 am

I rarely comment on blogs but what the hell. I work at a Verizon Wireless store and what you described it correct. The online side of VZW does offer crazy insane deal that the stores can’t do. However there are 2 different types of stores, direct and indirect. There are stores like Bob’s Wireless that sells VZW phones then there are Verizon Wireless owned stores. Typically the VZW owned stores can do pretty everything the online ppl can do (save certain things), the indirect stores always get the shaft, we still don’t have the Voyager phone.

I guess the best lesson here is don’t support the phone people! Don’t even support the direct stores, go to the local PageTronics Wireless store and support the little guys, you’ll get friendly service, better support and they’ll take care of you because they want your business more than just a guy on the phone. Will you have to pay more? MAYBE, a lot of times they’ll price match the online stuff if they can, if they can’t well then you are paying a little more for great support, and when you have a problem you can go back into that store for help. If you have a problem with the phone people you are so screwed.

You get the idea, I’m tired of typing

Tim February 2, 2008 at 9:09 am

I had a similar experience with Verizon. Tried to sign up for cable/Internet on line and the dollar amounts advertised on the teaser landing page weren’t available after going through the steps to sign up. Calling the contact number on the page got me to a customer service rep who told me I couldn’t get the price advertised on the web unless I went through the wizard – which never gave the option for the teaser rate. Anyway, it just left me in amazement that companies can be so poorly organized and still be successful. Verizon isn’t alone though as you say – I’ve had similar experiences with the other cable provider in my area – Time Warner.

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