Ask Verizon Wireless Regional President Marquett Smith why his company came out on top for overall performance for a wireless company in a recent RootMetrics report, and he cites the continuous build-out of the Verizon LTE network.
In fact, Verizon was also the winner in the subcategories of reliability, data, call and text performance, according to the RootMetrics report. While Verizon was on top for the overall testing, the company didn't win everything. For example, AT&T won the nationwide speed test, edging out Verizon, which was followed closely by T-Mobile. Sprint was a distant fourth.
"Our network is our rock," Smith said, sitting at a lunch table in the back of a newly opened Verizon Experience store in Alexandria, Va. "We concentrate on that. We make sure we have a solid network."
Even though the company has been reporting that most areas in the U.S. are "substantially built-out," Verizon Wireless has continued to add LTE capacity to its existing network. In addition to backhaul improvements that have added capacity, the result is that Verizon's LTE is more widely available than the 4G services of other carriers, despite the fact that some other carriers may have faster data speeds in some areas.
That may explain the RootMetrics results, and it helps explain a similar network quality win awarded by J.D. Power, which listed Verizon Wireless as top in network quality after surveying customers for the last six months of 2013. But J.D. Power surveys typically include factors beyond the technical performance of the network, including aspects of customer support.
J.D. Power's 2013 second half report noted that this is the first time since its study was broken down by regions that Verizon Wireless has been on top in all six regions of the U.S. The J.D. Power report was based on responses from more than 26,000 customers. The RootMetrics 2013 second half report was based on actual network performance tests rather than on surveys.
The RootMetrics testing involves driving around 125 metropolitan areas and directly testing the coverage, speed and connection reliability for the four major U.S. wireless carriers.
But Verizon has been doing more than just working to build up the performance of its LTE network. Smith told eWEEK that he's been working hard to transform how the company approaches its customers. "Our customer support side at this store is a primary example," he said, referring to the Verizon store where the interview was being held. "We've evolved our customer experience," he said. "Our philosophy is that we have to earn the right to get the customer and earn the right to keep the customer."
Smith said a big part of Verizon's improved customer experience was employee training and employee empowerment. "We have hands-on training for customer service," Smith explained, pointing out that Verizon Wireless employees are trained in every device the company sells. "We make sure our employees have hands-on experience so they know what to suggest. We have wireless workshops. We give you the support you deserve."
Smith said that Verizon employees in call centers get similar training. "Call center training carries across the footprint," Smith said. "Our general philosophy of customer service is the same."