Want to know how to quickly turn a new customer into a vocal ex-customer? Offer pretty talk without delivering meaningful results. This is my personal experience dealing with AT&T.
First the set-up. As a part of our family’s end-of-year review of finances, we realized we were paying too much for cable, internet, and phone with TimeWarner. We went out and researched other providers and settled on AT&T’s DSL and phone bundle (we decided to nix cable for a while) based primarily on price. We placed our order on January 9 and were told the effective date would be January 17. So far, so good.
The evening of January 17, I plug in the DSL unit and nothing: no phone, no internet. I call tech support and I get a friendly guy who tells me there’s something wrong with our account but because it’s after-hours, he can’t get more information. No problem, I’ll call back in the morning. When I call New Services the next day, the individual I talk to verifies the problem and tells me the internet order has been pushed out 45 days. Why? Well, she couldn’t be sure but would get it resolved. Just give them a couple of days and it would be taken care of. A couple of days later, we are met at our door by a tech who says he’s come to turn on our phone. My first thought was, “Why the hell are you here on Friday instead of Tuesday like you were supposed to be?” But I’m happy we’re finally going to get our service – as promised – so I say, “Great, go ahead and help yourself to whatever you need.” Thirty minutes later, he returns to the door and says there’s a problem with our line and will need to come back with new equipment. Unfortunately, we don’t see him again that afternoon and I guess AT&T doesn’t work weekends so we don’t see another individual until Monday. Never mind the fact the tech screwed up the phone line and we were without home phone service for the weekend.
Monday morning another tech arrives to fix the problem and after 2-3 hours of work feels confident he’s got us all sorted out…without fully checking that both phone and internet actually work. Unfortunately, I have the mother of all sinus infections that day so I take him at his word. Later in the evening, I check on the DSL unit and I’m amazed to see the red blinking light that tells me it’s still not functioning properly. The only service that appears to be working is the phone but it only works if using the phone jack in our upstairs office (the downstairs kitchen jack that is our preferred location is broken).
Next day, I try to call New Services but because of the labyrinthine phone tree, I think I ended up talking with a central call center rep. Yes, there appears to be a problem with our account. No, she can’t determine what the problem is. Yes, I’m still going to be fully charged starting on our effective date of January 17 even though I haven’t received close to satisfactory service. Yes, she’ll make a note of my objection.
If you’re keeping score so far, I’ve spoken to at least three AT&T contacts over the phone and two techs. And our service problem is far from being resolved. Not exactly the best experience you want for a new customer, particularly one who works in customer experience.
I decide to take a different route and contact AT&T via Twitter and see if I can get someone to give a shit about my problems. I manage to get a fairly quick response from @ATTCustomerCare on January 26 and am told to send an email with an accounting of our problems.
Hallelujah! A response from Algeria, Social Media Manager at AT&T. Finally, someone who will own my problem and finally help me get our service started. Right?
Imagine my raging frustration when all I get is more sweet talk about wanting to help and escalating the issue without seeing actual results. Since the nine days since @ATTCustomerCare told me I could expect a call about resolving this issue, I’ve received ZERO calls. But I sure have received plenty of tweets of apology and reaffirmations that I’m important.
Guess what? Every one of those tweets might as well read, “Blah, blah, blah you unimportant asshole customer, we’re big and we really don’t care.” Do I believe Algeria was sincere? Yes, but it doesn’t matter if everything she says is counteracted by a company without a clue when it comes to delivering a positive customer experience.
So as I mentioned yesterday via Twitter, AT&T has not only lost a new customer but gained a very vocal detractor who will be more than happy to share his customer experience with anyone, anytime, anywhere. All the nice words, all the marketing and PR bullshit, all the empty promises mean nothing if a problem isn’t resolved. Because in the end, that’s the power all customers have over companies that prove they really don’t care through their actions.