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Rating the Carriers: Customer Service Showdown

Phones, coverage, and apps don't matter if you can't keep the customer happy. Find out how the carriers stack up.


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In Store

We were immediately helped during our first visit to Verizon Wireless by Shaqueen, though she wasn't exactly warm. She said to go to "e-mail settings," and looked away without telling us where to navigate. When we asked, she replied, "At the bottom of the screen," as she began to help someone else. She turned back to us and said, "Enter your credentials and you're all set."

Shaqueen said we could use our phone as a modem, but that it would cost between $15 and $30 depending on our current data plan. When we asked how to get it set up, she was very curt, but correct. The rep correctly directed us to www .slacker.com or to BlackBerry's App World for downloading Slacker Radio, but didn't explain what App World was, or how to get it. We felt like we were wasting her time, and were out of the store within five minutes.

On a second in-store visit, we met Lakisha at a desk. She correctly told us--but didn't show us--how to set up our e-mail account. For Slacker Radio, she told us to open App World and download it from there; Verizon Wireless' employees were clearly up on App World. When asked about using our phone as a modem, she said we could with Verizon Wireless' connection software, a USB cable, and a tethering plan added to our account; the price would depend on our current plan. We were in and out of the store in ten minutes, with all of our questions answered.

Web Support

Verizon Wireless' Web site was as easy to navigate as AT&T's. We found the Support button quickly, and chose our BlackBerry from a drop-down menu. That led us to a page with step-by-step instructions and a BlackBerry device simulator for setting up a new e-mail account. There's also a lengthy PDF user guide from RIM.

Verizon Wireless, like AT&T, has a robust user forum of questions and answers, but we weren't able to find out how to install Slacker Radio. Verizon Wireless doesn't offer the choice to chat with an online representative, but you can e-mail your questions from an online form. The carrier promises an answer within 24 hours, but 72 hours after our query, we had yet to receive a response.

Navigating back to our BlackBerry's support page from the forums proved difficult. So we searched for "tethering" in a box labeled "How can we help you today?" We were annoyed to be sent to a list of Verizon Wireless' USB modems instead of any guides on how we could use our existing hardware.

Using the Customer Forums on Verizon's site, we found that we would need software and a USB cable to use our phone as a modem. And by navigating around the site, we realized that there are tethering plans available.

Verizon Wireless didn't have any guide on how to install Slacker Radio on its site, but we did find a link to a RIM site that correctly explained how to install apps, albeit without using App World.

Phone Support

We called Verizon Wireless at 1:40 p.m. (EST) on a weekday. After a menu tree, we were treated to ads after being told all representatives were busy. We waited for four minutes before a cheery Tiffany answered. For our e-mail set-up question, she nicely, but initially incorrectly, instructed us to look for an icon that looked "like a globe." Then she correctly said to look for an envelope with gears on it, and offered further instructions. She recommended their online simulator for additional support.

Tiffany correctly told us to look for BlackBerry App World to download Slacker. Tiffany also correctly answered our phone-as-modem question, but said our existing unlimited data plan was only for phone data. She said we could add a tethering plan online, or she could do it. The call took eight minutes.

Evan answered after three minutes. She said she could set up our e-mail account remotely if we provided our e-mail address, password, and PIN, or we could set it up; she correctly directed us through the setup wizard. Evan sent us to BlackBerry App World to install Slacker, but she wasn't familiar with it. When we asked about using our phone as a modem, the Verizon rep said we could do so inside the United States only, and that it would require a $30 monthly access fee to tether the handset, but didn't explain in detail how to set it up. The call lasted just under seven minutes.

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