Tuesday, November 17, 2009

AT&T Just Doesn't Get It: Part 2

Continuing on the spotty history with the "new" AT&T that prompted this blog, to make a long story short, problems with my internet cable service forced me to get a land line again at my business fax number so I was once again brought into the AT&T fold. But says a lot that as a busy guy who likes to keep things simple and is willing to pay a little more for quality service, I felt it necessary to have a cable internet hookup, a Vonage voice line, and a single AT&T fax land line. It was not only a lot cheaper than letting AT&T provide these three services, but also slightly more dependable. Obviously the opposite should be true. It should be a snap for AT&T to offer all three much cheaper.

Anyhow, once I was forced back into AT&T's circle I got a call from a very nice AT&T business rep. She wanted to know why I only had a single fax line, and could she talk me into using AT&T for everything. I said I doubted it, and she said that regardless, she was going to be my new business rep. She would provide the personalize assistance I really needed to handle all my problems. I said that that sounded nice, but I was busy so maybe she could start by sending me her e-mail and I could get back to her with my needs.

Well, she said she wasn't allowed to use e-mail.


So this giant telecom company had a policy not to allow it's business reps to use e-mail to service their clients. Really? She asked if she could call me back some time when I was less busy and I said fine. But if you aren't even allowed to use e-mail, I doubt you'll every be able to help me much.

Half a dozen left messages later, with me scratching my head as to why I would bother answering them, and my business rep quietly disappeared. Now this was a couple years ago, and I hope AT&T has since loosened it's no e-mail policy, but the bad taste of it all still hangs in my mouth. It's hard to measure the long term impact of these kind of missteps on a huge brand like AT&T, but I think they add up.

Also, consider for a moment if instead of fighting e-mail, AT&T had an aggressive policy of using it? Wouldn't it be great to have an on-line business rep who you simply dashed off an e-mail to whenever you had a problem? Surely these could be handled by cheap off shore workers who could create a "virtual" business rep.

Of course, e-mail is problematic if your company relies on confusing customers to make money, or provides lousy service and it's really interested in fixing it. You don't want a hard copy digital paper trail with dates and times of every problem, every overcharge, etc. But long term, AT&T will simply have to get it's act together or it won't survive. It really won't be able to compete once everyone gives up their land lines and they have to rely on providing better service and prices.

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