Buyer's Remorse: Avoid the Pain By Checking First With Verizon

NEW YORK - Not many consumers buy the first home they see. Or car. Or pen. Or pack of frozen vegetables, for that matter. They comparison-shop.

But many customers contacted by Verizon after they discontinue service and sign up with a competitor say they did not realize the competitive value of Verizon's customizable bundles of calling, Internet access and digital TV.

"When customers disconnect service, for whatever reason, we ask them why," said Mark Adams, executive director of consumer marketing for Verizon. "We want to know how they perceive the value of our services.

"But of those who tell us they're leaving for another company, a shocking majority say they did not ask us about our services and prices and make an informed choice before signing on the dotted line with competitors. They did not know our everyday prices beat the competition's non-promotional rates in many cases, or that our services are superior to the competitor's on many levels.

"The best advice I can give any customer who is tempted by a competitor's telemarketer, commercial or newspaper ad is, 'Please, call us first,'" Adams said. "We offer free consultations on services that take into account a customer's actual calling habits, Internet or data needs and TV viewing preferences, and we custom-fit a plan that offers the best value coupled with our superior customer service, all on one bill."

Many customers should know that Verizon offers DIRECTV digital entertainment services in a bundle that brings with it a $72 annual savings off the regular cost of 200-plus channels of all-digital TV service.

Verizon also offers choices in voice plans including unlimited long-distance calling, or customers can shave dollars off their total bill by getting unlimited local and regional calling along with a low per-minute rate for those occasional long-distance calls.

"But the most important thing we can do is teach customers to read the fine print on other package deals," Adams said. "The promotional pricing tool is commonly used to hook a customer, but it can lead to higher costs in the long run. A total bill may balloon from $90 under the promotion to $135 later. Who can afford a surprise like that?"

The latest trick, he said, is that competitors teach their new customers how and when to disconnect from Verizon, telling them not to call until after their new service is up and equipment installed.

"Once the hardware's in and the house is rewired, it is difficult and expensive for the customer to leave the competition," he said, "and the customer's shot at a fair shopping deal is more difficult."

Another tactic involves competitors unhooking customers' in-home extensions from the Verizon network interface to create in-home networks for their service.

"If a customer then wants Verizon service again, he or she may have to pay to have the wiring and extensions restored," Adams noted. "We think customers should know that before they say yes to the competitor offers."

According to Adams, cable companies are in a mad scramble to acquire customers before Verizon's powerful FiOS data and video services expand over the coming years, bringing unprecedented services to every home via fiber-optics.

"Meanwhile, Verizon already has superior phone service, competitive data services and a powerful DIRECTV video offer in the market, so customers can make one simple call for a consultation and we'll show them the value of Verizon's package offers," he said.

With more than $71 billion in annual revenues, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon has a diverse work force of more than 210,000 in four business units: Domestic Telecom serves customers based in 29 states with wireline telecommunications services, including broadband and other services. Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 43.8 million voice and data customers across the United States. Information Services operates directory publishing businesses and provides electronic commerce services. International includes wireline and wireless operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.