A few weeks ago, after a long struggle, I lost a companion of more than a year-and-a-half — my BlackBerry World Edition (8830) from Verizon. It was a great phone, surviving heavy drops on pavement and enduring more than one text battle with friends and significant others, but was on death watch for about a month. Finally, after an accidental dip in the sink — and the periodic malfunctioning of the left half of the keyboard — I decided that it was time to let go.

I had been following the progress of the BlackBerry 9630, eventually named the Tour (for the record, I did this with the other BlackBerry out of the room lest I offend it and it delete all of my text messages). The Tour boasted some great features that had limited the world edition — more memory, better screen resolution, a faster processor and a camera. After stopping into the Verizon store on Smithfield in downtown Pittsburgh on numerous occasions, I knew that it was the right phone for me.

The team at this Verizon store is always excellent — they move people through quickly, are courteous and professional, and consistently deliver great customer service. I have always been amazed by this — it is a very high-traffic store — yet the folks working there rarely get overwhelmed.

Everything was going well until I learned that my expected “new every two”, the program that provides a $50 credit toward the purchase of a new phone, wasn’t available to me. You see, I was on someone else’s family share plan for the previous 18 months and, by Verizon policy, wasn’t eligible for the credit because I wasn’t the primary account holder. I was pretty upset — I had been a customer for years, and a profitable one at that (I’ve had a smartphone since 2004). How could they not acknowledge that I was a long-time customer? Was it worth the $50 to them to make me feel like my business wasn’t valued?

I grumbled to the person who was setting up the phone. She responded, “I hate telling someone no, especially if they’re nice, but there really isn’t anything I can do.” I accepted it and moved on, but remained irritated by the policy.

I received a robocall later that week asking for my opinions about the service I received. The first part was a standard survey, but at the end, it allowed me to leave a voice mail with additional comments. I took the opportunity to emphasize how much I appreciate the service at the store (even if I’m just browsing), but mentioned that I was disappointed by the new every two policy. I hung up the phone and promptly forgot about the call.

A couple of days later, I got a call back from the manager, who had said he received my message and wanted to follow-up regarding my complaint about their policy. I was stunned — I never expected my message to be heard let alone reacted to. I mentioned how great the staff was (again), but laid out my case for why the new every two policy was not right. He immediately agreed, saying that he felt that it was a bit unfair since people often pool their plans to save money (and pay their fair share), yet aren’t given the benefit of the primary account holder. He then credited my account $50 and thanked me for my feedback, also stating that he would be sending the complaint about the new every two policy to his district manager.

For all the ads that tout Verizon’s superior network, I have to say that this interaction taught me that big corporations, especially those that are providing utility-level products or service, can deliver excellent customer service. It is possible for a company to hire well, train well, and empower the folks working on the front lines to satisfy the needs of their customers. Not only does it build goodwill with individual customers, but it creates the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that can make the difference in a competitive consumer landscape.