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What Exactly Is Verizon Trying to Prove?
By: Melody Weister
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A question has been nagging at my mind since Verizon’s newest customer-unfriendly policy came to light; for those unaware to what I’m referring, the CFO of Big Red recently let on that those consumers currently grandfathered in to unlimited data plans will most likely be unable to keep them the next time they renew their service. In fact, I’ve been mulling over the same question since the company announced it was hopping on the bandwagon of postpaid wireless carriers who offer only tiered data, not an unlimited data plan, and after numerous other incidents in which they’ve flagrantly ignored what ought to be their primary concern — keeping customers: Is Verizon just trying to prove that they can have the absolute worst policies for customers and still maintain the largest wireless market share?
 
When Verizon first announced they were eliminating unlimited data plans in 2011, there was a communal groan from potential subscribers and those looking to add lines or update their service. “But wait!” Verizon assured them, “If you already have unlimited data, you can keep it!” In a world where more and more users are purchasing smartphones, and where increasing amounts of functionality require a constant data connection, an unlimited data plan is a rare gem among cellular service providers. Pre-paid services often pretend to offer unlimited data, but hide restrictions in their terms and conditions; now, all postpaid carriers, with the exception of Sprint, offer tiered data plans, with the maximum tier costing the user an obscene amount of money. Verizon’s highest data tier is only 10GB, which might sound like a lot, but comes at the hefty price of $80/month. Add on $20/month for unlimited text messaging, and the user is already looking at a $100+ phone bill, just for one person!
 
Then again, few people flinch at the idea of a phone bill that exceeds $100 these days, it seems. But when you compare Verizon’s service to a competitor, that question starts poking its head up again: Are these guys using the fact that they can’t seem to shake their #1 market share spot as an excuse? If you’re not sure, examine the hard data. A middle-of-the-road plan for an average consumer these days is something along the lines of 900 minutes, with unlimited messaging, and ideally unlimited data. That plan, on Sprint, the carrier with the highest ranking customer satisfaction, also includes free calls to any mobile device in the United States, regardless of service provider. Overall, it would run you $89.99/month, before taxes and any additional service fees. On Verizon? Well, there’s no unlimited data, but 10GB is the next best thing, so that option puts your bill at $159.99, before taxes. Oh, and forget those free minutes calling any mobile phone — calls are free to Verizon customers only, with the option to add five extra free numbers. Those numbers don’t lie. Verizon offers a similar plan at almost double the price of their competitor.
 
How do they justify it? By playing on customers’ willingness to believe old prejudices. At one point, Sprint, the only other major CDMA postpaid wireless carrier in the U.S. (T-Mobile and AT&T are both GSM, so operate on different frequencies and use different towers), had the worst customer service available. Now, as Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch reports, "The ACSI survey finds wireless customers continue to feel a greater sense of loyalty to Sprint. Sprint is unbeaten among national carriers for the highest rating in customer loyalty among national carriers and is the only national carrier to see consistent improvement in this area since 2010.” In comparison, Verizon’s customer satisfaction has steadily plummeted, which ACSI founder Claes Fornell explained in a statement: “New fees for phone upgrades and a surge in traffic accessing data has increased Verizon’s revenue, but at the expense of customer satisfaction.” However, Verizon’s commercials focus more on downplaying AT&T, whose customer satisfaction also continues to fall, but who remain Verizon’s largest competitor.
 
Personal experiences with Verizon’s customer service notwithstanding (but, oh, the horrors!) the evidence lately seems to indicate that Verizon shows little, if any, regard for their subscribers. In fact, they seem to be trying to ride out their indefatigable position at the top of the market while implementing as few policies to supplement it as possible. But let’s be honest, Verizon, just because you have the largest coverage doesn’t mean you can take your customers for granted.


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About the Author
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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