I’m referring to AT&T Mobile. And, it’s not frontline customer/technical support personnel causing the problems; it’s EXECUTIVE management and their horde of self-anointed God-like ENGINEERS. I wrote the following letter to:
Mr. Randall Stephenson
CEO, President, and Chairman
208 S. Akard St.
Dallas, TX 75202
You won’t find any executive mailing—nor email—addresses on the AT&T website.
Dear Mr. Stephenson:
Complements of a seemingly perpetual series of mergers and buyouts over the past three decades, beginning with Cell-One and going through Cingular, I’ve been an AT&T customer for a couple of years, now. So, here we are at this point.
Occasional technical and billing glitches are integral to using technology, especially mobile phone technology. So, some level of contact with customer/technical support personnel is not only likely; it’s inevitable. And, for the record to this point, my contacts with AT&T personnel have been minimal, pleasant, and productive.
Two years ago, I joined the Smartphone revolution by upgrading one of the four phones on my account to a Motorola Blur. Not only was I happy with the phone, for 23-months, it worked flawlessly on your 3G network.
But, about a month ago—all of this took place during March and the first week of April 2011—I began receiving network and “no connection” errors. After a week of these, I decided to upgrade that phone to a more powerful one. I purchased an HTC, a truly remarkable phone with a large display and an interface that even an idiot could master in under 15-minutes.
I went to the AT&T store located inside the Concord Mall in New Castle County, Delaware. This isn’t a company store, but I have been going there for years because the company store located on route 202 in Talleyville, Delaware is a zoo. The personnel in the Concord Mall store have always been fast, courteous, and outstandingly efficient.
Anyway, the new HTC phone worked flawlessly in the store. In fact, it seemed to work flawlessly everywhere EXCEPT my home area—and it’s important to keep in mind that all four of my phones had worked flawlessly inside my area until about a month ago.
I returned to the store and they replaced the sim-chip. But, it still failed to work in my home area. I could drive about a quarter of a mile outside my area; and the phone worked fine. I suspected degradation in some of the equipment on the local cell tower. I called AT&T customer service to inquire.
They were outstanding in their effort to solve my problem and connected me to the technical support group. They, too, were courteous and thorough in trying to analyze my problem. They came to the same conclusion as I did: that it was a network problem. So, the technician I spoke with started a case (#CM20110321_18797754) and sent it to “engineering.”
That was three weeks ago. “Engineering” closed that case after 3-days, informing me to call technical support if I had further questions. Of course, I did have additional questions because I still was UNABLE to access the network other than sporadically. And, I was dropping calls, as well.
Again, technical support patiently and courteously took my information and started a new case (#CM2011030325_18985096). As well, after 4-days, “engineering” closed THIS case with the same text message for me to call technical support with my questions. I did so, since I was still unable to access the network other than sporadically. And, I was still dropping calls, only more of them.
Technical support REOPENED that case number for “engineering” analysis. After three days, I seemed to have unfettered network access and my dropped calls stopped occurring. Figuring “engineering” had found and corrected the problem; I called technical support to let them know what was going on. They noted it, thanked me, and sent it on to “engineering.”
Then, Friday evening (April 1) I lost network access AND calling capability inside my area. I also received a text message from “engineering” that they were analyzing tower problems in my area and I was to call technical support if my problems persisted after April 3.
But, the problem for me was the fact that I’d be unable to use any of my phones (phone or data) inside MY area until about 8:30 PM on April 3. Outside my area, I had immediate and limitless access; but I’d have to drive about a quarter of a mile away.
Mr. Stephenson, any idiot not on a respirator could have told “engineering” that this was a network issue and that, most likely, it would require some level of tower restoration. I KNEW it was a tower issue because I have a friend who had verifiable access to this information and showed it to me. AT&T had known about it before I began complaining about it.
This seems to be the status-quo with engineering departments. They simply refuse to come down from the mountain and acknowledge that others, even some of us annoying customers, know a thing or two. I’m a long-retired, 70-year-old credentialed scientist. I have a slew of “Know ye by all these presents” parchment decrees in a dust-coated box buried under a ton of other crap in my garage. I’m not stupid.
This kind of behavior makes hard working front-line customer/technical support personnel look foolish. Customers take their frustrations out on them because they can’t reach the real culprits: engineers and their managers that make unilateral decisions based on their own self-defined reality.
And, you and your executive team are so far removed from it—I had to dig all over the Internet just to find a mailing address for this letter—that you have no idea what’s happening. You rely on too many of those ambiguously worded customer surveys either developed by underlings directly, or farmed outside BY them, to hide facts that may get them fired. But, in the final analysis, customers blame AT&T, the whole organization, for shoddy service.
And, even if “engineering” fixes the problem by April 3—and I am assuming that they will—for the last month and still counting, I have not received the services for which I’ve been paying. I’m not looking for a bill adjustment, Mr. Stephenson. An offer from Technical Support to adjust my bill for the next period will in no way compensate me for all the frustration I’ve gone through over this.
You’re poised to become the largest mobile phone provider in the world once the SEC approves your purchase of T-Mobile. However, BIGGEST doesn’t necessarily translate to BEST. At the rate you’re going, in spite of the fact that recent OBJECTIVE surveys listing Verizon as worse than AT&T is; and Sprint as the LAST mobile phone company that people now associate with quality service, you may merely end up as the best of the worst.
Finally, insisting that your personnel tell me, every time I call, that I’m an “AT&T valued customer,” is a waste of time. It amounts to pure fertilizer as long as actions belie words. If you’re genuinely interested in valuing my business, deliver the services for which you charge me. And stop letting “engineering” make liars out of some very dedicated customer/technical service personnel. Oh, and it would help your cause a great deal if you’d place an EXECUTIVE mailing address PROMINENTLY displayed on your website.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.