Monthly Archives: June 2009

Verizon FIOS Execs – Please Read – It’s Not Me, It’s You

vonage-logoToday I made the jump, the leap, to Fios. For the record my previous home technology stack had been Vonage for voice, Comcast for Internet and TV. I have had VZW for mobile since the days they actually called it a “car phone”.

Since I was working from home today, I was able to observe the FIOS tech as he went about his business in my house. He arrived promptly at 9:00 and greeted me like the chef at a Japanese steaks house. “Okay, Mr. Spencer, you have one Triple-Play, three sets, two with, one without, HBO , Internet and Phone….correct?” Should I have ordered the soup also?

He told me that installation is an 8 hour job and that he would be in and out all day. No Problem. I went about my business, we went about is.

After a couple of hours I took a break from my work to see how Verizon guy was doing. He was busy6-18-08-fios_installerattaching the “ONU” (Optical Networking Unit) to the side of my house. I found it interesting since during my early days at Bell Labs, in the 1980s, my department had worked on the Darwinian ancestors of the ONU. Back then the evolutionary process was first called FTTC (Fiber to the Curb), the unfortunate acronym -Far Access Remote Terminal, and lastly FTTH, Fiber to the Home. These were all technologies that were decades ahead of their time.

verizonfiosbackupHe then proceeded to install a battery backup for the phone service in my basement. The phones I use are all cordless and my family has 5 mobile phones. The battery back will not help my cordless phones and a blackout should not impact my mobile phones. This is a pure expense for legal air cover should the power go out and -GFB- I need to call 911. For such an advanced service, very backward thinking in 2009.

After buzzing out the phones, the Internet came up quickly and then the last pulling and tugging of cable to get the television service going. All went smoothly to that point. Just like the commercials, he sat me down and demonstrated my remote (without a cable guy glaring in from the window). Total effort was the advertised 8 hours.

As soon as he left and we started to use the service, the quirks emerged.

Firstly the Verizon set up disk only works on a Windows machine. I had to morph my Mac with a VM to fire up Vista. The setup program executed, updated and churned for 45 minutes. The only think useful that happened, through all the screens, T&C’s and other useless info, was that I got a Verizon email. One that I will never use.

I then tried to register at Verizon.Net. I tried several times and continually got a message that said “We cannot register you now”. This seemed strange. Then it hit me. Verizon has nothing that supports Mac, even Safari browser. So, I switched to Firefox and the registration worked perfectly.

Next task was to set up my personal and work email using the outgoing email server at Verizon. I prefer to use my ISPs outgoing service so that my free personal email with my own domain does not have ads on the bottom.

Everything seemed to work with just one small problem. The test emails that I sent to myself never arrived? I connected to the Verizon server just fine. The email was accepted by the server and then got lost.

This could not be a Verizon issue. After all, when I leave my house I have that nerdy guy with glasses and 300 of his friendssplash_verizon_crowdfollow me around to make sure my service is ok. Having served Verizon as a vendor for most of my career I appreciate that they take 99.999% reliability seriously.

I checked and double checked all the passwords, permissions etc. I stopped and thought about this and then I remembered another strange occurrence about 4 months ago.

I had just started a new job and was configuring my corporate email account on Google. Like most people (I assume), after you set up an email account you send yourself some test emails to make sure it works. I had the same problem with Google. I struggled with that one for a couple of hours. Next, I checked some bulletin boards and found out that Google mail was in the middle of a significant outage! Three hours later, without touching anything, my service was up and working.

I wondered. Could I be that unlucky? Could Verizon be having an email problem the exact moment I tried to use my new Verizon service? I checked the Verizon user self-help bulletin boards and…..Bingo!….. Verizon was experienceing hour plus delays in email delivery due to server outages.

I put email aside and next tried to tackle voicemail. There was nowhere on a Verizon support site or any piece of paper or booklet that I got from Verizon that instructed me on what to do to set up voicemail. I know that Verizon has some portal somewhere to listen to voicemails online and send yourself alerts, but they certainly like to keep it a secret.

Since I’m not exactly new to the telephony world, I just dialed my own number and walked through the VM set-up. But, I still wanted to find this portal. I figured it was accessible through Verizon.com – a logical guess. I had previously registered on Verizon.net and thought that user name and password would allow me into Verizon.Com. no such luck. I tried to register at verizon.com (with a non-Apple browser, of course!) and still no luck.

Now its time to call Verizon. I have to say one of the reasons I left Comcast was because their customer service was , well, sucky. Verizon, with my nerd friend and his army of techs clearly have their act together, right? Wrong….

I called customer support, waited 10 minutes with really bad music, and spoke to a lovely lady with a heavy Indian accent. I explained that I was trying to find the Verizon voice mail online portal. I am not sure exactly which word she did not understand, but I guess it was everything after the word “Verizon”. I gave here my address and phone number twice and she said, “Oh my, you have fiber optic voice service!” Bursting with geek pride I said, “Yes I do!”. I figured I must now be in line for some very special VIP treatment.

Her next words were, “I can’t help you , I will transfer you to Fios” , The line went silent and then I was put on hold with music for another 10 minutes. At this point another guy answered the phone, asked me for all the same information and gave me the same line – “I can’t help you, I will transfer you” click, ring, music, another 10 minutes.

The third person I spoke to understood what I was looking to achieve. He also told me that he could not help me but said the “e-desk” is the place for “you”. Frustrated and wanting to have a little fun; when he asked me if there was anything else he could help me with , I said yes. “The Verizon email? Does it always take an hour to deliver an email? Is that standard?” He launched into the tech support speech that I call “you are a dumb person with technology and let me tell you why….” He went on about how Verizon can’t be held responsible for the whole Internet and that was obviously the problem. After he finished reading from the prepared speech on his PC (obviously not a Mac) . I asked him , “If that’s the case, why did my email stall in a Verizon server for 67 minutes?” I gave him the server name and the IP address. I am not sure what I gained by that, so to that Verizon CS guy…..sorry.

He then connected me the e-desk. Finally some satisfaction? I got a recording that the e-desk ‘s hours of service had ended two hours ago. Click, disconnect. Oy.

Hey Verizon, I could have gotten this treatment from Comcast!

Epilogue:
In this change over of home technologies I had to cancel Vonage and Comcast. This is almost as frustrating as my Verizon help desk run around.

First Comcast:

comcast21After working my way through the automated phone system I finally got to they “cancel service” option. I nice upbeat guy answered and I told him I was cancelling my TV and Internet Service. He told me he was “Shocked” to hear that. That I was such a good customer. (paid my bills?). Then he starts to launch into the “Save this customer “script. These scripts can last 15 minutes. Once he launched into all of the new special offers and services that Comcast could bring me, I asked him to stop, jump to the last page of the script where you give me my cancellation confirmation number. He was “deeply saddened”, and asked Why would I leave?
I told him “Its not you, It’s me” and I promised to still be friends.

Next breakup call was Vonage. The guy on Vonage was “amazed” that I was a Vonage user for 5 years. I was one their longest tenured customers, practically a celebrity. I also asked him to skip the next 10 pages of script and just give me my cancellation confirmation number. He decided to read the next 10 pages anyway.

I also told Vonage , “Its not you, it’s me”, and my new BFFL Verizon. He could not believe I would leave Vonage. I even asked him if he wanted me to put Mike, the Verizon tech on the phone? Now, that’s a good Verizon commercial in the making.

So – To Comcast and Vonage – Bye, Loved it while it lasted, but we grew apart and you are not a match for Fiber.

And to Verizon, Please get your CS act together. Just because you provide the same services as cable companies does not mean you have to provide the same customer service experience! It takes your tech 8 hours to install your service, you need me to stick around for awhile to re-coup those kind of costs.

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Filed under Apple, Fios, Google, Love, MAc, new media, relationships, Verizon, wireless, wirless

Is Facebook a Culture?

This afternoon I had an interesting debate with several colleagues about the roles and differences of brand and culture.

Can a product or service create a culture of customers?

Choose Wisely!

Choose Wisely!

While creating its own culture is the holy grail of a brand manager, it is rarely if ever achieved. A well executed brand will have consumers associating positive qualities about the product or service. The brand will elicit emotional reactions and creat a self-branded consumer image through these positive traits.

For example the Mercedes brand denotes luxury, class, status, sophistication and wealth. Mercedes has invested heavily to create their brand. Their customers feed off this image. If you own a Mercedes you are …..fill in the blank. This is, however, an example of good branding, not a culture.

By the way, what I associate most about Mercedes is a significantly different Brand image.

Mercedes Branding?

Mercedes Branding?

Culture is anthropological. It is a collection of societal norms, behaviors, customs, beliefs and values. Culture requires human contact, communication and structure.

Cultures exist at many different levels. Nations, religions, regions, teams, and companies all have cultures. Any collection of humans that interact on a regular basis will develop a culture. Successful companies understand the importance of corporate culture and attempt to manage the culture to support their product/service creation and delivery process. Conservative companies such as utilities or financial institutions will have a conservative culture to match their conservative brand. Standard offices, boring office art, formal business attire, strict hierarchy and low risk taking would be a typical culture for these brands.

alley1Emerging data service companies in Silicon Alley will likely be more progressive. Open office plans in a remodeled loft building, funky furniture, relaxed (but always stylish) office wear, and more ad-hoc communications would be the culture to support a more avant-garde Web product. Culture supports brand. Brand does not create external culture.

 

Companies that produce products have cultures, what they produce has a brand.

There is a hybrid concept put forth by marketing consultants called “Brand Culture”. My view is that this is pandering to brand managers who want their brand to become a culture. It also pads the wallets of those pandering consultants. Good market branding on their part!

Brands can however tap into cultural trends and capitalize and what exists in different cultural groups. Brands can even strengthen and reinforce cultural values.
Sometimes this connection between a brand and it cultural constituents is planned and intentional and sometimes it just happens. Axe body products have created products that tap into the young teen boys culture. This is a culture desperately wanting acceptance from the recently discovered females. axe_million_dollarcapitalizes on their culture, their values, their fears and desires and created a brand image that with one quick spritz of their product, woman would fall at their feet. This sounds almost too ridiculous to be taken seriously.  Yet, from personal experience with a relative recently in that demographic, I can definitely say that the brand tapped into this culture as they doused themselves in Axe on a daily basis. Of course after several years of using the product and not having it deliver on its brand promise, the fantasy and the use vanishes.

Brands do not create culture.  Brands can capitalize on existing cultural trends and can even enhance pre-existing cultures.

Source:www.gaywheels.com

Source:www.gaywheels.com

An unintentional example of a brand tapping into a culture is Subaru. In the 1990’s Subaru realized that their cars were very popular with Lesbians. Their brand had tapped into a culture without a targeted plan to do so. To Subaru’s credit they realized their strength in this segment and have attempted to enhance their brand as being gay-friendly. Subaru was a major corporate sponsor for the Showtime series, “The L word”.L Word

This discussion leads to the title of this blog and one of this afternoon’s debate points. Is Facebook a culture? Do people who use Facebook form a culture?

My answer is no. Facebook is a reflection of the There are many diverse cultures that exist in our world. If you use Facebook try this exercise. List all of the cultures that you belong to outside of Facebook. My list would include: My immediate family, my extended family, my local friends, my life long friends, business associates, my religion, high school friends, college friends, etc. Each of these groups has a somewhat unique culture that is further encompassed by a New York Culture and an American culture. We live in many different cultural environments with some dominating others depending on any particular situation.

Do you have your list?

Log into Facebook and compare your Facebook network to your existing cultural groups. How many total strangers have you really met on Facebook that are outside of your pre-existing cultural groups? Do you associate Facebook membership at the same level as your religion? Your nationality? Your family?

Facebook is a service that is branded with qualities of worldwide reach, connections, communications, simplicity, etc. It may serve to connect existing cultures, strengthen and extend others, but a culture onto itself? Nope.

If you can think of a product or service that has manufactured and maintained an external culture that would stand shoulder to shoulder with any anthological culture, please post them in the comments of this blog.

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Filed under advertising, facebook, gay, holy grail, lesbian, mercedes, mobile, New York, subaru