Saturday, November 14, 2009

AT&T Just Doesn't Get It: Part 1

The title of this post will probably become a recurring theme on this blog, because for a giant corporation that offers technology services, AT&T seems completely out of touch with how to use technology to service their customers.

Case in point came after I canceled my business land line in favor of Vonage. I got a call on my old phone number from an AT&T rep asking if I would reconsider. I patiently explained that their service has been insanely bad to the point of rarely working and woman sheepishly offered various discounts and incentives to go back to it. Even she seemed embarrassed when I asked why I would pay anything for something that did work, but she had a script she had to play out. Ridiculously, the offers involved various complicated discounts on long distance an other areas where AT&T had already lost any competitive edge against all sorts of flat rate service providers.

On one level, I can sympathize with AT&T's dilemma. They made (and still continue to make) a fortune off old land lines owned by old people afraid to embrace new technologies or too lazy to search for cheaper alternatives. There isn't a good reason to fix the old copper wires until they're ready to put in optical wires and over complete internet and media services. Moreover, they have to know eventually they're going to have to lower rates to be competitive with alternatives, but why do it now while they're still making money off these suckers?

That's simple economics, and I understand that. But what they need to stop is deluding themselves that it's smart to waste peoples time trying to delude them back into the fold once they've left. Perhaps they have some statistics that indicate that if they have phone banks in India call back old customers and offer flimsy discounts to return to service, they can milk those old cows for a little longer.

I think what they can't calculate as easily is how incredibly annoying such calls are and how much they soil their already tarnished corporate image. In areas where they know they are going to be upgrading to optical lines, I think it would be a lot smarter for them to just give up on lost customers, and spend that money for phone calling on speeding up the upgrade. Then when an AT&T rep calls, they have something real to offer and maybe a better shot they will be listened too.

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