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THEY'RE LISTENING

All the personal data that Verizon FiOS uses to keep you from canceling

By Shelly Banjo

When you call Verizon FiOS, the customer service representative on the other end of the line already knows quite a lot about you.

The American television and internet provider is now closely tracking exactly what you watch, what devices you use, and how much data you consume. It knows whether your household spars over DVR conflicts and how many hours your kids spend binge-watching shows on HBO.

What’s more, the company is listening in on phone calls to customer service in real-time, with supervisors poised to jump at the moment they sense a fight brewing or hear trigger words from an unhappy customer, such as ”switching to Time Warner Cable.”

In a presentation at a meetup of data enthusiasts in New York City, Verizon executive Mahmoud El Assir detailed what happens behind the scenes when customers call into the Verizon FiOS help line. It’s part of the company’s efforts to stay ahead of competitors in the increasingly fierce battle over TV and internet service.

El Assir explained how Verizon monitors billions of data points a day from 7 million Verizon FiOS customers to make sure its customer service representatives know pretty much everything about their customers’ TV consumption habits before they start trying to talk someone out of canceling a bundle of channels or getting rid of that extra DVR.

“Customers are four times more likely to upgrade their DVR boxes to newer versions that record more shows when we bring up the data on recording conflicts,” El Assir told Quartz.

Here’s an example from El Assir’s presentation of just some of the things customer service representatives are provided with before they begin talking with customers:

“Now when an agent gets a call, instead of blindly resizing customers cable packages, agents can tell them how they might lose these two channels and how often they watch them,” El Assir said. “It’s a more educated conversation with the customer.”

El Assir also spoke about a new program called mobile coaching, shown in the slide below, which allows call-center supervisors to monitor customer service reps in real time and step in with coaching help on what to say “if we hear Comcast, Cablevision, or Time Warner,” for example.

Verizon says it gets permission from its customers to access their data and that it’s all in the name of providing better customer service. Spending less time on the phone with a customer service agent benefits everyone, El Assir argues. Still, most people would be surprised to learn that Verizon keeps such detailed records and makes it available to that customer service rep on the other end of the line in North Dakota.