Is Verizon’s customized customer service video a good idea?

Verizon sent me a video about my bill this month. It was very strange to see a customized video about my billing details. I think this is a good idea — but I worry about similar videos used for phishing purposes.

I recently called Verizon, my Internet provider, to see if I could upgrade the speed of my service. I was pleased to find that not only would they be able to increase my speed by a factor of six, but that they would also reduce my cost. (Call your provider every once in a while — you might get a deal like this, too.)

Of course, that means that there’s a month when my bill is partly at one cost and partly at another. Since people can find this confusing, Verizon sends an email with a custom video explaining it.

I recorded it so you can see what I mean. The video below includes details like my name, details of the services I signed up for, the date of my next bill, and the exact amount that bill will include.

It was frankly shocking to get a link to a video that included my name and personal details. Of course, the only one who could see it was me (until I posted it here).

They were thoughtful enough not to include personal information like my account number. As far as I can tell, there’s no way this video could be used to gain unauthorized access to my account.

I think this sort of service video will become increasingly common. Based on the logo on the screen, this one comes from a provider called SundaySky. In general a service video like this is a good thing. This explanation was actually clearer than what I got when I called customer support to change my plan, and I found it helpful.

Once such videos become common, though, they’ll be subject to hackery. It would be pretty easy to create such a video with, say, not just your name but your picture, perhaps purloined from Facebook. As you can see, this video includes links at the end. In a phishing version, those links could land on a convincing phishing site and nab your password or other details.

Have you received a video like this? What did you think? Do you agree that such videos will become more common, or that they could become convincing conduits for phishing? What’s your perspective?

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  1. I’m already hesitant to load videos for anything that could be explained by simple text, so I would not be a proponent.

  2. Josh – simultaneously fascinating and creepy, isn’t it?

    I first stumbled onto a similar idea as an Xfinity customer.

    FWIW – Xfinity told a brief story of the implementation back in 2015 at which is roughly when I stumbled onto it.

    I was working for a health insurance company at the time, and inspired by my own personalized video, looked into the costs of doing videos like this for our customers.

    As everyone who’s ever wondered what, exactly, their health insurance covers, we dealt with tens of thousands of calls asking when the bill was due, was this or that covered, and a variety of very common, predictable, and repetitive questions, particularly right after the customer had come onboard.

    (Health insurance remains far too complicated for most people – another topic for another time)

    Ultimately, we weren’t ready to move in this direction, so I designed interfaces to display that common information in a less glorious and interactive way, and diverted a lot of unnecessary calls, chats and emails from clients.

    It was, essentially, “UX without bullshit.”

    Both Verizon and Xfinity have done a nice job explaining their bills in simple and easy to understand ways.

    Will hackers/spammers attempt to mimic these and trick people into taking actions they shouldn’t? No doubt. As you mentioned, thankfully there isn’t much personal information in these, so the existence of these videos themselves aren’t much of a security/privacy risk.

    Generally though, when these are done well, they put people at ease, and make it much clearer what they’ve signed up for. If more companies borrowed from this simplicity, if not the video format itself, whew, we’d have a hell of a customer-focused revolution on our hands!

  3. Another provider of customized video is VidYard. These tools can create powerful customer experiences.

    Like any other such new tool, someone may try to abuse, “hack”, or fake it.

    It seems a certainty that we as consumers need to become better at detecting these, develop a healthy skepticism for content knowing these possibilities, and adopt tools to help protect against the worst of these.

  4. I get irritated with videos-instead-of-text, because the folks who put them out are operating on the assumption that *every*one has fast internet with high (or no) data limits. (They’re also assuming that the receiver will be able to *hear* the video, which isn’t true for many people.)

    I live rurally, with satellite internet service, which is way slower than they proclaim. I cannot watch a video without waiting through the buffering, often two or three times during a 3-minute video.

    If someone sent me a video explanation without added text or transcription, I would resent the time needed to watch, resent the use of extra data, and would probably email back to request they send the info in text.