Why do you make it so hard to become a customer?

One of the hardest things for any business to do is gaining new customers. Anything that makes it hard for someone to become a customer is therefore a bad thing. So, I find it surprising how hard some companies make it to become a new customer.

Today’s example, my former employer, Verizon. I have been a Verizon customer for years. For (mostly silly) reasons, at 10pm last night, I wanted to add a new line of service to my account. I had a Google Pixel 6 in my hand, it had no SIM, and I just wanted to download an eSIM and get going.

Verizon’s website and mobile app said it could be done “immediately” and service active in 4 to 24 hours. So I entered my IMEI (for SIM2 as directed), I signed up, picked a number prefix, and was waiting for a QR code.

What I got was an email with a link to a website that said I needed to speak with a representative. And representatives aren’t available till 0800. So at 0805 I spoke with a representative who didn’t know what I wanted. With some gentle coaxing I got the representative to understand that I didn’t have an iPhone (never have even though she insisted that I have an iPhone) and that I needed a QR code to activate my phone. No such thing, she assured me. Just power cycle the phone she said. So I played along, no good. After 15m on the phone, Lisa figured out (maybe she did a google search) and said she could read out my QR code to me. Then she realized that she had to email it to me, which she did and in 30s I was all set.

Being curious about this kind of thing, I wondered why I needed a human involved in this process. I entered IMEI/2 (that’s eSIM on the Pixel 6) there’s no reason for a human at this point! I thought (maybe) Verizon encoded something fancy into the QR code, and it was somehow personalized.

As an example, here’s a QR code for an Airtel (Indian cellphone provider) on the left, and the Verizon QR code on the right.

The thing is this, the Airtel eSIM encodes a bunch of information, and if you were to decode this image, you’ll find

QR-Code:LPA:1$smdp.airtel.in$97119........ many chars deleted .....E15A7

But, if you decode the Verizon QR code, what you get is literally this

QR-Code:LPA:1$gsma2.vzw.otgeuicc.com$

Which makes perfect sense – the network knows IMEI/2, all you need to do is attempt to connect to the site (listed) and provide it IMEI/2 and you’ll be able to complete provisioning.

Verizon should (literally) be plastering this QR Code on every flat surface they can find and tell people that they just need to enter IMEI/2 on a website (which they do) and then service will be automatic. At the very minimum, they could just put it in the email I received – and I’d have had my phone up and running exactly as expected, in 15m or so.

But no, they have friction – a human in the process, and unfortunately one who doesn’t know how this is supposed to work. And one who is only available at 0800, and not 24×7.

Make it easy for people to onboard to your product, and your odds of success are increased. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll succeed – if the product is shitty, people won’t come. Thankfully, Verizon’s product (their service and coverage) are great compared to the other providers. But even with that, if you make it hard for people to onboard to your service, they may just go somewhere else – like T-Mobile which has this on its webpage (https://www.t-mobile.com/support/devices/sim-esim)

Guess what you get when you decode that?

QR-Code:LPA:1$T-MOBILE.GDSB.NET$

Obvious? Clearly not (to Verizon)!

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