Learning from Verizon Fios – The Parable of Getting Results

We recently decided to switch our cable, internet, and phone to Verizon Fios. I could add this story to Chapter 3 of The Elegant Process  – another example of how a company’s mistakes can cost them a lot of money.  But my problem with Verizon Fios is more of a parable about the challenges in getting results.   And, getting results is what process improvement is all about.

Like 99.99% of residential customers switching carriers, we wanted to keep our old phone number.  But, when Verizon installed the new service, they also gave us a new phone number – a new phone number that I neither asked for nor wanted. One would think that resolving this problem would be simple, but it has not been so.  I have been on the phone with Verizon’s customer support for no less than 3 hours per week for the last 4 weeks trying to get this problem resolved.  This on-going and as-of-yet-unresolved frustration reminds me of three very important aspects of problem solving.

  1. Communicate the desired future state concisely, consistently, and frequently.   Each time I am on the phone with Verizon’s Fios Customer {lack of} Support, I state the following, “My name is Jason Kilgore and I am calling you today to get my phone number back.”  Then, the back-and-forth problem solving commences.  It is important to restate the goal so that no one loses sight of what must be accomplished.
  2. Ensure everyone knows what they are supposed to do next.  Re-activating a phone number that has been inactivated requires a ton of action items.  So, before concluding each call, I make it a point to restate what is supposed to happen next, who is responsible, and when it is to be completed – just so we are all on the same page.  In any productive work group, meeting, or planning session, a final review of the action items ensures everyone understands the game plan and reinforces personal accountability.
  3. Follow up on key deliverables as they come due. According to Verizon, each step will be completed in the next 24-48 hours.  So, sometime within the next 24-48 hours, I call them back to document the progress of the project.  And, it’s a good thing I do.  Verizon and I have worked through issues including data entry errors and lack of a clear process for recovering inactivated numbers.  None of these mistakes would have been proactively resolved in a timely manner without my intervention.  Because I am the one who wants my phone number back, I am the one responsible to get it back.  For me to think this problem is Verizon’s problem will only result in my never getting my phone number back.

Thomas Edison was noted for saying, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  Perhaps, the same is true for problem-solving.  If you are to solve your company’s most pressing issues, it will be less about methods and frameworks and more about your determination to succeed.