Verizon bills dead man

Without a PIN, daughter isn't allowed to cancel account. Verizon blames a customer service snafu.

By Jamie Dlugosch Mar 9, 2010 4:24PM

Would you buy a stock in a company that bills the deceased?

 

Apparently that is what communication giant Verizon (VZ) did in the case of a West Virginia man who passed away in June 2009, but was billed until February of this year.

 

The man's daughter tried to cancel the account, but because she didn't have her father's personal identification number, a Verizon customer-service representative wouldn't comply. The issue was resolved only after the woman, who lives in Florida, contacted a consumer advocate.

 

I know times are tough with the recession and all, but are companies that desperate?

 

On the surface, one might dismiss this unfortunate story as an isolated case of customer-service buffoonery.

 

 

But in a hypercompetitive marketplace, a company must rely on its people to make wise decisions on the front lines. There is too much at stake to allow mistakes like this to happen.

 

The best companies empower customer service agents to resolve exactly these kinds of problems, and expect them to do so.

 

Of course, Verizon claims that one employee acted improperly. But I’m not buying it, since this problem went on for more than a month or two.

 

No doubt, the company is now trying to put out a fire after the fact. But one has to wonder if the next person facing this unhappy test will have fewer hoops to jump through.

 

The broader lesson, of course, is that it's nearly as important to catalogue your personal data, including passwords and pins, as it is to have a will. A cottage industry that has sprung up to deal with this, with companies like Deathswitch and AssetLock available to help.

 

Personally, I wouldn't own stock in a company that treats customers this way. I'd certainly watch this one for more signs of trouble. (10 stocks not to be avoided)

 

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