The bigger they get, the harder they are affected by any potential PR nightmare triggered by business decisions, that, although wise, may confuse, and even alienate, users. For Verizon, the nightmare is about to hit the fan, with the death of grandfathered unlimited data plans. According to the news, Verizon Wireless will force its existing unlimited data plan customers to a tiered plan beginning this summer, to boost revenue for the wireless carrier.
Users still under an unlimited plan at the beginning of the shift cannot be forced into a tiered plan, and Verizon will have to honor their contracts. Customers who will pay full price for their cellphones at the time of the renewal of their unlimited data service plans can keep these plans for a flat monthly fee. For everyone else, once these contracts end, Verizon is pretty much entitled to do whatever it pleases. Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney said that the new policy will affect customers on all 3G and 4GLTE smartphones..
But while the strategy may sound great in financial terms for Verizon, users were getting angry and consider switching to other carriers, yet they don’t have too many options. In fact, Sprint took advantage of the opportunity to remind US consumers that it was the only national wireless carrier offering truly unlimited data for smartphones. By comparison, all so-called unlimited plans by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have some data limits, with usage slowed once users hit a certain threshold.
The real problem with Verizon’s new strategy is that it angered users, who may now choose to switch to more transparent, and even more affordable plans from other carriers, even though they don’t offer comparable advantages for smartphone users.
For Verizon’s PR team, killing the negative reactions of the public seems an impossible challenge. So far, the team was slow in providing answers and responding to complaints. Even more, spokeswoman Raney wrote in a statement that the change in pricing and plans was determined by customer requests:
Customers have told us that they want to share data, similar to how they share minutes today. We are working on plans to provide customers with that option and will introduce new plans later this year.
Influenced by customers or not, the move was carefully considered by the carrier – it was a calculated risk. Verizon is fully aware that some of the users will switch to other carriers, and has probably already predicted how many. But did they take into consideration that social media complaints like the ones featured above may influence more users than media articles? And will Verizon’s updated statement on data plans, promising customers timely information and options, help?
We will share specific details of the plans well in advance of their introduction so customers will have time to evaluate the plans and make the best decisions for their wireless service. It is our goal and commitment to continue to provide customers with the same high value service they have come to expect from Verizon Wireless.
The internal Public Relations team at Verizon has used a number of different outside PR consultants, including Axia Public Relations, Allison+Partners, Boston-based Thomson Communications, & Crenshaw Communications. The agency’s primary ad agency is Momentum Worldwide.