During a recent trip to one of their retail stores I discovered Verizon is barely even trying to keep their customers from flocking to Apple’s iPhone. Are they giving in to defeat? What’s their game plan?
Despite my love for nearly all things Apple, I have to admit I’m not yet a proud iPhone owner. Why? Because I’m a Verizon customer who enjoys their network reliability and, more importantly, is still under contract until the end of May. My trusty iPod touch has tided me over since October 2007 but it’s finally time to make the switch to AT&T when the next iPhone comes out.
There are a ton of other people in a similar situation, weighing their loyalties to both Verizon and Apple to see who comes out on top — all at the same time hoping a Verizon version of the popular device suddenly pops up out of nowhere. Since my mind is already made up, I recently made a quick stop at a Verizon Store during my lunch break to get some end-of-contract questions cleared up. What I got instead was a whole other slew of questions about how Verizon is attempting to fend off the ever-growing threat of the iPhone.
Why are you leaving?
As expected, I was immediately pounced on by a sales representative (who was actually a manager) upon entering the Verizon Store. After expressing my intention to leave when my current term is up, I was casually asked what my reason for leaving was. Fair enough — it’s a valid concern. Almost like I was breaking the bad news of a family member’s death, I regretfully said it: “iPhone.”
Heard it all before?
I fully expected to get the runaround about AT&T’s crappy service or the iPhone’s lack of features like MMS or copy & paste. Shockingly, the sales rep did no such thing. At first he had no response other than a dejected “Ah…” so I took the opportunity to dig for more of a reaction. “I’m sure you must hear that a lot,” I said. “Actually, not so much since the Blackberry Storm came out,” he replied, as he pointed to a big sign behind him. Yeah… sure. It was clearly a scripted answer that he’s given many times before in this exact scenario.
I shrugged and said, “Nah, that doesn’t really do it for me.” “No?” he questioned, trying to pretend he was surprised. “No, it’s just not the same.” All he could muster up to that was a terribly desperate sounding, “Come on…” And that’s where it ended. He had no other selling points or bashes towards the iPhone, so I thanked him for answering my questions and went on my way before it got awkward.
What are they doing?
This all begs the question, what exactly is Verizon’s strategy for stopping their loyal customers from going to AT&T in droves? Practically begging them in a busy retail store in front of other patrons to “come on…”? If I had stayed there any longer I fear he might have actually said, “Are you sure you really want to do this?” I know it sounds overdramatized and unrealistic, but this was seriously the tone of the conversation. Not to mention the fact that this was a manager. Even he seemed to have been beaten down by so many people citing the iPhone as their reason for leaving that he just couldn’t argue it any more.
Faithful Apple followers may remember back when the iPhone 3G was first released that Verizon distributed a cheat sheet to employees with selling points specifically targeted towards customers thinking about bolting for AT&T. They appeared to be going for the jugular. Their CEO even went as far to say, “Steve Jobs eventually will get old… I like our chances.” Pretty cocky, right?
Now compare that confidence to what’s been happening lately. Could my Verizon Store experience somehow be related to the company’s revised customer surveys which surfaced earlier this month? On three separate questions regarding what Verizon could have done to keep the customer happy, the iPhone was an option all on its own — the only competing device to be specifically named. It sure sounds like Verizon is starting to regret declining Steve Jobs’ offer to be the exclusive carrier for the iPhone before he settled on AT&T.
You have to wonder… what triggered this change in Verizon’s attitude?