Verizon’s Southeast VP Leaves Telecom
By RICHARD MULLINS
The Tampa Tribune
Published: July 1, 2008
Amid a growing number of customer-service problems, Verizon Communications Inc. has switched out its local executive team.
Suri Surinder has left the company after 11 months as Verizon’s senior vice president and general manager of the Southeast region. Surinder, 44, “elected to leave” Verizon, effective Monday, according to an e-mail sent to employees by Bob Mudge, chief operating officer for Verizon Telecom.
The changes come as a growing number of Verizon customers report problems with their monthly Verizon bills, discount deals that didn’t materialize and long delays for telephone repairs. State officials, meanwhile, have called for multimillion-dollar fines of Verizon and probes into lapses in the company’s telephone service.
Two weeks ago, Verizon also switched its chief of public advocacy in the Southeast region.
Surinder’s departure comes as Verizon is rapidly expanding its Fios fiber optic television, Internet and phone service, signing up thousands of new customers each month and attracting high marks for its technical achievements.
Tampa was among the first two markets nationwide where Verizon launched a cable TV service in direct competition with companies such as Bright House Networks. Surinder had come from Verizon’s New York headquarters, where he had held posts in field operations, customer care and strategic planning.
When he came to Florida, Surinder led network construction, maintenance, marketing and customer service for 1.5 million customers in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.
In the past year, however, glitches with Verizon’s customer service have emerged, and series of investigations by The Tampa Tribune have detailed problems:
•Verizon often took months to deliver free high-definition television sets promised to customers who signed up for Verizon service.
•A popular $99 per month combination deal for cable TV, telephone and Internet service often ended up costing much more.
•Customer service teams at Verizon were pressured to sell more Verizon services rather than fix customers’ issues.
• Verizon had delays of a week or more to restore basic telephone service.
Verizon officials have acknowledged many of those problems and made attempts to improve service while also saying they think state investigations and fines are unwarranted.
At one point this year, Surinder launched a special customer service phone number meant solely for customers with lingering problems, and he began to deploy contract workers called personal account managers to be a single point of contact.
Verizon, meanwhile, has switched other executives.
Alan Ciampocero, Verizon’s chief lobbyist and public advocate, last week announced he would retire after 20 years in telecommunications, including 10 at Verizon.
He turned 60 in March. Effective July 25, he will be replaced by Michelle Robinson, 40, who will lead a reconfigured set of Verizon territories in the Southeast.
Surinder’s replacement has not been named.