Randall L. Stephenson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AT&T, has inspired me with his talent for cultivating great comedians. He must be very proud of his customer service. It's hilarious.
I've been an AT&T business customer for over 10 years, since starting up an independent consulting firm. You are probably marveling at my inertia; sometimes I'm amazing that way.
When I called to respond to AT&T's letter to renew and check out the great packages that can save me money, I was excessively diverted.
Hours of Entertainment
The best part about AT&T customer service is that it lets you know what to expect. The woman who answered when the hold music finally stopped said: "Hello, I can help you," and promptly cut me off before I had a chance to speak.
Undeterred, I called again. This time a gentleman answered. But he sounded confused and complained about computer problems on his end. He was clearly having a bad day. I offered to call back later.
The third time was the charm. I got a fellow named "Johnny" (not his real first name). He asked me if I were happy with AT&T. I explained about my previous attempts to get help. But compared to AT&T, I know nothing about being undeterred. He again asked if I were happy. Who could possibly be happy about being cut off and coping with someone who can't help? But he seemed really eager to check off the "happy" box. I took the hint and said I was happy to get him to help me.
Johnny really knew his stuff. He said he could get me a much better rate, but first he wanted to renew me and he'd call me back with details. Oh, and if I wanted to terminate, he didn't think they'd charge me the termination fee. This is a great comedy routine!
Did Johnny ever call back? No, of course not. That would spoil the joke! I called Johnny back to remind him that I wanted to terminate my AT&T messaging service that was part of my phone package. He said that he remembered, but it isn't his department. Likewise the international plan isn't his department either. Johnny's mission, of course, is to make sure he signs you up for another year, no matter how it's done.
Randall L. Stephenson: Leader and Motivator
My experience is typical among my colleagues who use AT&T, it's a running joke. Yet it's taken me a long time to explore other options. A couple of Brits have been bugging me for ages to use Skype when I call them, but it took Randall Stephenson to motivate me to take action. His brand of leadership is exactly what it takes to get people moving.
But wait; there's even more fun to be had! I thought I'd give some feedback to AT&T about its customer service. So I went online and logged in to my account. There's no actual email address, but you can choose a topic, click a few buttons, fill out a form, and click send. Will you get a response? Of course not. AT&T is truly committed to making you happy, so it keeps you running around in circles until you're dizzy with laughter. As for customer service, "it can wait."
Update April 16, 2013: Today, I sorted out my personal phone. The first person I spoke with was interested in selling me a different service rather than addressing my current needs. In the end I couldn't accomplish what I wanted. I called again, and the second person I reached helped me. For my business account, a specialist called in response to my earlier complaint and sorted everything out --very smoothly and professionally (and the process was pleasant). At the end of this two-day process, everything was sorted out to my satisfaction, and AT&T said it will be improving its processes.
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