All Customers (Not) Created Equal

Gina Scanlon
Posted: 10/13/2010

I had a customer service issue with AT&T concerning my cell phone and it was resolved. That’s the good news.

Now for the bad. It was only resolved due to my professional association with Call Center IQ, which compelled me to write this.

One of the worst things about technological devices is that they have a tendency to stop working on us at the most inopportune times possible. Not that there’s ever a ‘great’ time for anything to stop working. One morning on my way to work, the touch screen on my cell phone stopped working. I tried a little DIY, taking out the battery, playing with the keyboard, but to no avail. My phone was swiftly crossing over from purgatory to another world. So I took it to the AT&T tech support store. They couldn’t fix it either and directed me to an AT&T retail store nearby where I was eligible for an upgrade.

Now anyone who’s ever dealt with AT&T (and I suspect other phone companies) knows that nothing is free except the papers they hand out at subway stops, and an upgrade required a two-year extended contract. I bit the bullet, mainly out of convenience and my insatiable codependence on my phone. So I upgraded and that was that. Problem solved.

Oh, how I wish that were so.

As it turns out, my shiny, brand spanking new phone that promised all things innovative and holy began getting spam texts at the speed of light. The first day I would get a text from the four digit number 3020 almost every hour without fail. The next day it slowed, but I still counted around 10 a day. There were no promotional messages attached to the spam, just jumbled configurations of letters and numbers.

Clearly this was cause for concern. So I called the AT&T customer service hotline.

I believe the line the customer service rep gave me went something like this.

"Since the number is only four digits there’s really nothing we can do to stop it."

I’m not exaggerating. When I asked to speak with someone higher up they simply said they would give me the same line, and that I would have to find a way to root where the spam was coming from to prevent it from continuing.

"Did I mention I was receiving the spam nearly 10 times a day?"

"I’m sorry, there’s really nothing else we can do."

I went back to the AT&T tech support store the next day, asking one of their representatives about the issue. He gave me a fun little purple Post-It note. On it was the customer service hotline. I realized that attempting to continue along this avenue would soon become comparable to riding the Mad Hatter tea cups at Disney, if you catch my drift.

These are the kind of stories angry Twitter rants are made of.

Instead of just getting mad, I thought I’d attempt to get my problem solved.

Plan B. Contact the press.

The same day I decide to email two members of the AT&T Media Relations team and begin tweeting about my experience. I of course didn’t fail to mention that I work for an online beat that covers customer service management.

By the end of the day, someone from Corporate Communications emailed me back on behalf of Media Relations notifying me that my complaint will be looked into shortly.

The very next morning I get this email from the office of the AT&T president:

Dear Ms. Gina Scanlon (Ms. I like that)

Thank you for contacting AT&T Mobility. We apologize for any inconvenience that you may have experienced. We would like the opportunity to address all your wireless concerns and customer service matters. In order for us to assist you, we need you to verify your account information in your email to us. Please, respond to all on this email with the following information:

Account Number:

Wireless Number(s):

Contact Number(s):

Upon receipt of this information, we will contact you within 24 hours to address your concerns.

Thank you,

AT&T Mobility

HQ – Office of the President

At the end of the next day, after I had already left the office, an executive specialist from the office of the president in Biloxi manages to reach me on my cell phone after claiming she’s tried calling three different numbers, including my office phone, leaving numerous messages. I have to admit she spoke with a pinch of desperation as she expressed her relief for finally reaching me

The specialist needed to confirm some security information, which I didn’t immediately have on hand, and since she called me so late on a Friday, we weren’t able to touch base again before the weekend.

Monday

I discovered that Friday, after business hours, the following email was sent to my work:

Thanks for sending over your wireless number and thanks for your patience. If you haven’t already, you will be contacted by one of our Customer Care managers who will assist you and ensure you no longer receive the text messages from 3020.

The text messages are a result of a Mobile Email alert that was programmed into your old device. It appears they weren’t disabled when you switched devices, causing repeated messages to be sent to your new device.

We looked into your concerns about the process for investigating text message spam and appreciate your specific feedback. Our Customer Care representatives do have tools available to troubleshoot with customers when they call in about text spam; however, the 3020 Mobile Email Alerts that you were receiving were not identified as spam in our system.

Based on your feedback, we are improving the information available to our representatives so they’ll be able to better assist customers in the future.

Please be in touch if you have any further questions.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Corporate Communications

Why thank you, Corporate Communications, thank you very much.

At this point I’m still waiting for the executive specialist to return my calls. She calls, after business hours, again, and leaves a voicemail on my office phone.

Tuesday

I finally get a call during business hours from the specialist. She verifies some security information and says she will be getting back to me in the next few hours to get this resolved. Later, she calls back, as promised, and says she has found the root of the spam, and will contact the perpetrators on my behalf. She also said the problem should be totally resolved within the next 72 hours.

Why thank you, executive specialist, thank you very much.

By the next day, I stopped getting the spam and received a text notifying me I had been taken off some kind of mailing list. That was that. Problem solved.

Really solved this time.

However, that excellent, attentive customer service should be given to every customer who experiences a problem, not just for those willing to use their job as leverage or use hashtags as a weapon. I appreciate AT&T taking care of my problem. Now if they could only take care of everyone else’s instead of telling them, "There’s nothing we can do."

Gina Scanlon
Posted: 10/13/2010

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