We had an identity theft issue in our family back in September 2013. We were obviously upset by the situation. But, how we learned about it, and how it was resolved, was worthy of a blog post on how important customer service is in setting your brand image, especially around resolving problematic situations. This is a story of how three different wireless phone services (T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon) handled this situation, when they learned about a fraudulent account being set up on their service.
T-MOBILE (Customer Service Score: A+)
We had no idea there had been an identity theft issue until we got a random phone call from a representative at T-Mobile, asking if we had recently set up new service with them. The call came in one day after the account was set up. We said, no, we had not set up new service. They said that was what they thought, and immediately closed the new account at no financial cost to us. They also said they beleived we were a victim of identity theft and to pull a credit report and check our credit cards to see if any other erroneously activity had been identified.
Thank goodness T-Mobile called!! Had they not called the next day, we would have never known there was a problem, and the fraudulent billings could have been going on for a month, until we got our monthly credit card statement. Kudos to T-Mobile for setting up internal controls and procedures to know that something was wrong. I am guessing the fact someone walked into an Akron, OH store to set up a new account with a Chicago, IL address was be the trigger?
AT&T (Customer Service Score: B)
Once we pulled our credit reports, we learned that new accounts were set up on AT&T and Verizon, as well as T-Mobile. We immediately called AT&T to let them know. Once they learned it was a fraudelent account, they immediately closed it with no hassle and no financial cost to us.
You would think that was great service, unless I told you we were long time customers of AT&T. If anyone should have called us to warn us about potential fraud, it should have been AT&T, not T-Mobile. There should have been triggers in their system that told them new lines were being set up out-of-state at the exact same address of existing account holders. So, I am grateful they resolved it quickly, but wished they had learned about it on their own.
VERIZON (Customer Service Score: F)
And, now for Verizon--the Darth Vader of fraud resolution!! When we called Verizon to let them know about the situation, instead of getting the nice, pleasant representatives that immediately resolved our problem, no questions asked. We got a more combative position that almost made us feel like we were being treated like the criminal. They would not close our account or stop billing, until we filed a police report and shared it with them within one week. So, we already felt bad from the identify theft to start with, to now have to be kicked in the head by Verizon.
So, we follow their instruction, go thru the cumbersome process of dealing with the local police department, to learn their process takes weeks, not days to get police reports, which I am sure Verizon knows (so why create the sense of urgency). But, the police detective says he'll call Verizon and let them know about the fraud to resolve issue, which he does. Verizon doesn't close the account until over two weeks after we first called them, but the fraud department forgets to make the required updates in their billing system.
The Verizon bills kept coming in each of October, November and December. We keep calling them in each month, wasting our time on hold for 30 minutes each time, saying you agreed that is fraudelent issue has been resolved and that billing would stop. Each time, their agents agreed and said don't expect to see any more bills. And, then in January, we get a letter from their collection agency, now starting to impact our credit with their mistakes. After today's call, I am hoping we are finally done with this mess: after four months of being jerked around, wasting time, and being reminded of this bad identify theft situation. Only time will tell.
Take learnings from this case study for each of your businesses. What processes and procedures do you have in place for consumer dispute resolution? How customer friendly are they? How do they compare to your competitors? What controls do you have in place to identify potential consumer problems as they happen, to nip them in the bud? Because the last thing you want to be dealing with, is an irate customer blogging about your poor actions on their widely read blog and sharing it with their large base of social followers!!
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