Verizon's miserable customer service is about to get worse

Verizon Wireless plans to shutter call centers in five U.S. states and reduce staff in 1,700 of its retail stores, a move that will surely affect the company's already poor customer service.

verizon wireless logo
Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Verizon Wireless isn't exactly known for great customer service — just ask the thousands of customers who say the company recently overbilled them. Now Verizon's customer support will very likely get worse. The company plans to close call centers in five states, a move that will affect 3,200 jobs, or about 2 percent of Verizon's workforce.

News of the call center closures follows news that Verizon will consolidate jobs at its retail stores, so instead of workers helping customers they'll stock shelves.

Verizon has a first-class wireless network — it frequently ranks highest in independent tests — but the company also charges more than any other major carrier. Its customers deserve quality support, and reducing employee headcount, particularly at call centers, will not improve the situation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who has been under pressure to stem job losses in his state, and Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents thousands of Verizon employees and recently led a strike against the company, criticized the cutbacks in a joint press release. (Disclosure: The author is a CWA member.)

"Verizon Communications brags about being the nation's biggest wireless carrier. It's an extremely profitable company," Shelton said in the release. "In July 2016, Verizon's stock hit its highest price since 2000. It's spending $4.83 billion to buy Yahoo's Internet business."

Why Verizon is closing call center, consolidating jobs

Like other wireless carriers, Verizon's growth has slowed as the market for smartphones approaches saturation. The once staid wireless industry has also become much more competitive. Verizon's revenue in the first half of 2016 was down 3 percent, to $44 billion, and it gained new subscribers at a markedly slower pace than in the past.

The Associated Press first reported news of the call center closures. Kim Ancin, a Verizon spokeswoman, since confirmed the cutbacks and said affected workers would be offered jobs at other locations or severance packages if they decline to move.

On Monday, Ancin told that Verizon will combine two of its in-store positions ("experience specialist" and "operations specialist") into a single role in 1,700 retail locations across the country. Those affected employees will also be offered new positions. However, in the future, customers who need help with a product or a billing issue will likely spend more time waiting.

Verizon false-billing issue has not been resolved, and it may even be getting worse. In September alone, customers filed 2,079 federal complaints against Verizon Wireless related to excess data charges, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Thousand of angry customers claim Verizon billed them for data they never downloaded, and in some cases those overcharges amount to hundreds of dollars.

"We're investigating every single situation the FCC refers to us, as well as those we identify from media reports," wrote Verizon spokeswoman Kelly Crummey in an email. "And we won't rest until we provide a great response to each of our customers, including correcting any errors."

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