Worst Practices In Product Management

I had a call with Verizon Wireless yesterday afternoon that went something like this:

Me:

“I got a Blackberry recently and I was trying to use it as a wireless modem for my laptop and I’m having trouble.”

Tech Support:

“Let’s try some things.”

…time passes. We try lots of things. Problem persists…

Tech Support:

“I checked and I found out that you need to activate a feature to enable you to use the Blackberry as a modem. The feature costs $15 per month.”

Me:

“What? I am already paying for data access, by the megabyte. Modem support costs $15 more?”

Tech Support:

“Yes, I’m sorry. Would you like to speak to Customer Service?”

…on hold for a while…

Customer Service:

“Yes, sir, that feature is $15 per month.”

me:

“How come that wasn’t clear when I signed up for the Blackberry service? Plus, I’m already paying you $150 a month.”

Customer Service:

“I’m sorry, that’s the only way we sell it… think of it this way: It’s only $0.50 per day.”

me:

“But I only need it occasionally. I can’t justify paying $15 per month for occasional use.”

Customer Service:

“This might solve your problem. You can activate it when you need it, then deactivate it when you’re done. You’d only pay for the days you use in that case.”

me:

“I have to call once to activate, then again to turn it off? Every time I want to use it? Why don’t you have a daily access?”

Customer Service:

“That’s the only way you can do it.”

me:

“I might try that, but it’s unfortunate that you don’t have a plan that helps the occasional user, like me. And I don’t like having to pay $15 or even $0.50 per day for something that should have been included with the data feature I already bought.”

Customer Service:

“I’m sorry. Can I help you with anything else today?”

* * *

So: no resolution. Tech Support and Customer Service were fine, creative, even approaching that state of bending the rules to satisfy a customer. (Installing rigid processes that force this kind of behavior is a worst practice depicted nicely in a recent post by Dave Snowden.)

It’s Product Management I have the problem with. First of all, an additional fee for my laptop to use megabytes I’m already paying for is bad. (It’s done so that people who pay $60 per month to use the Verizon PCMCIA card in their laptop won’t feel that they’re getting ripped off–even though they already do.)

Second of all, not having an occasional-use plan and forcing me, the customer, to do work to synthesize this plan (call to activate, call to deactivate, every time I need the service) is also bad.

Finally, I am a $150 per month wireless customer. (VZW’s ARPU is around $50.) I’m a Verizon VIP. Yet there’s no accomodation built into the product for my kind of customer.

It’s just poor packaging all around. And it needs to be fixed. This is one of the reasons mobile phone customers hate their suppliers.

Aaargh.

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