I try to imagine I'm a normal consumer when I do my job and when I post on this site, because it is important to me to exercise great empathy for the average user. However, I have to admit every now and then, that because I work in technology, and I love gadgets, I am not every consumer. The difference is an important one.
By way of example, I recently bought a Verizon Wireless USB Modem. I have no Verizon phones, because I own an iPhone, Blackberry Curve and NexusOne, and I didn't need another phone. (This is when my admission I am not every consumer is relevant.) I carry different devices for different reasons and different times, which I know is not average. Switching phones keeps me from getting too familiar or biased towards any one phone, or to any particular mental model. So, in my defense, I like to believe it keeps me from getting too jaded like early adopters tend to do.
In any event, I prefer to manage my wireless bills online, which brings us back to me being pretty average. I went to the Verizon Wireless site today to create an online account so I could keep track of my data usage and set up auto-pay. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. After asking me for my phone number, and asking me to identify myself as the primary account holder with the last four digits of my social security number, the site informed me that the account would not be accessible till I retrieved the temporary password that was being sent by SMS to my phone. Excuse me? That's right, I just got finished telling you in the paragraph above that I am not a Verizon PHONE customer. And who should know that better than Verizon? Didn't they just look up my account to verify my social security number as the primary account holder's before they sent that SMS? That same account could have told them what devices I owned, and that none of them could receive SMS.
Sure, Verizon plans to send me a hard copy of the temporary password through the good, old USPS. But the fact remains they missed the opportunity to ensure I will use the online portal at the moment when I was actively engaged and had the time to do so. Any marketer worth their weight knows that getting someone to come back and take action is much harder than working them into action once you have their eyeballs.
My issue is not about security and authentication. It's about the original experience. Why do I have to wait at least 3 days for the temporary password to complete the transaction? Sending a temp password by snail mail as a back-up may be the best way to "close the loop" and ensure a customers' privacy. But that's really just a consequence of a more foundational problem: either Verizon don't understand CRM or they have such a bias for their voice-centric network, that their CRM system doesn't support a use case for a customer with a data-only device that can't receive an SMS.
I opened the VZ Access Manager today, and found that Verizon does apparently know how to enable text messages, although their account website or store reps provided no clue as to how to access them on initial set-up of my USB modem. I had two text messages sitting in my Access Manager inbox, 5 days apart telling me I am pre-approved for a Visa credit card. What, now I'm getting spam text messages sent to my data stick, but my SMS with the temp password for my Verizon account was not there?
Sadly,with the VZ Access Manager preferences, there was no way to opt-out from the marketing text messages or to assure account-related messages rise above the spam.