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Vonage and Customer Service

The last two weeks have been not the most pleasant with our telephone provider, Vonage. We’ve been using Vonage as our land-line now for something like 2 years, with great results. I’ve been terrifically happy with the quality and features. But now, given my first run-in with their customer service…well, there’s an interesting outcome to this story. Stay with me for the payoff:

So, two weeks ago we came home after a trip to KY to find that something was seriously wrong with our house…cable out, no internet, and because of that, no phone. So we contacted Charter, and they were there the next day to fix the cable and our internet access. But even with the ‘net back…no Vonage.

So I put in an email to support, and that started a 2 week long exchange where they suggested fixes, I tried them, and then they suggested new ones that didn’t work either. It finally came down to the fact that they Vonage router seems fried. Here’s where it gets interesting.

So a new Vonage device on their website starts at $49.99, plus shipping, for the most basic of their boxes. The one I had was a wireless router as well, which pushed the cost up a considerable amount. I asked about the cost for a replacement, and was told that as an existing customer I could get a one time credit of $50. This was where I got interested in the actual customer service aspect of this…they weren’t offering me credit for the fact I’d been down 2 weeks, which seemed an obvious step to me. As well, isn’t it in Vonage’s corner to provide me with equipment, if need be, in order for me to continue being a customer? Even cell-phone companies will give you a reconditioned phone if yours gets broken, and by and large they have the worst customer service in the world.

To make matters worse, they were offering on their website a $79 retail router for $9 to new customers. So a new customer gets a $70 subsidy, but an existing one gets $50. And only after spending two weeks trying to fix the equipment.

So I got aggressive, more from a desire to see what the outcome would be than anything. I told customer support that I found the situation unfair, and that I was unhappy with the outcome. I gave them a chance to step up…and they didn’t. So my next letter, expressing my displeasure, was crossed to the CEO, the Chief Marketing Officer, and the Senior Vice President of Customer Care. How did I get their email addresses? I didn’t…I guessed. I found the emails of other Vonage employees online with a simple Google Search, and noticed that the format was always the same: Firstname.Lastname@vonage.com. Finding the names of any public company’s CEO and such is pretty trivial, and with those two pieces of info, we were off!

So what do you think happened? Not even 12 hours after I sent the email I received a phone call from a Customer Service rep. Said CS rep assured me that I would be receiving, at no cost to me at all, a new Vonage device…the $79 dollar one, as it turns out. Free shipping as well, all credited to my account, device shipping today. Huh.

What’s the moral of our story? That is shouldn’t take complaining to the CEO of a company to get results…the front-line people who are dealing with the public need to be enabled to make decisions like this and engender goodwill. This is even more true in the library…don’t force a patron to wade up the chain of command in order to get something done. Empower your workers, and hire people that have good judgment and can make these calls themselves.

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