Solutions for AT&T

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gnuff_postAs you can imagine, I’ve been inundated with emails about Hattie’s AT&T rant. (For some reason no one’s telling her.) Anyway, based on ideas that have come in so far, here’s what I think AT&T should do.

First, acknowledge that there are two problems: service and customer service. The first problem is… well, have you ever met anyone who praises AT&T service? So you have to begin with the second problem, and here’s how:

Start by being nice. Customers will respond a lot better if you treat them like friends. Don’t be too formal. That’s an old form of customer service and people don’t like it. Try to apologize now and then for the terrible service, abysmal download speeds, frequent internet messages (“site not found, broadband error, please restart your browser”), modem mishaps, dropped calls, and pricing mistakes (or whatever they are). Let customers know—without being too nice about it—that the crew there is trying to right the ship.

“great” customer service rep

“great” customer service rep

The initial conversation is crucial. Right now it goes something like this: “Thanks for choosing the new AT&T, my name is Raja, how can I provide the best customer service possible for you today?” followed by, “What’s your name, is this a good call back number, and just to be sure I got it, let me repeat back to you the number you just gave me.”

Wrong. We know who we just called, you can see our number (you’re the world’s largest telecommunications company), and the matter of great customer service should be a given. The best way to communicate it is to be it.

Here’s an option: “Hi, this is Raj, how can I help?” Then listen. Let customers talk about their problem right away. And whatever you do—whether you have to run some test or get more information—don’t ever put the customer on hold. And stop all that repeating back stuff (“Just to make sure I understand your problem, let me repeat back what you just told me”). Whose dumb business idea was that? That’s not how people talk to each other.

website madness

website madness

As for the number one big problem, it’s gonna be harder but it’s easy in the beginning. First, stop jerking customers around with the pricing. Be honest. And if the download speed is really going to be 200 mps, say so. Don’t charge us for 450 mps plus all the delays and interruptions. You see, we don’t mind paying for good stuff. It’s just gotta be good.

Next, keep things easy to understand on the web site and especially on the bills. Make these two things—your main means of reaching out to us—as intuitive and user friendly as possible. Make both a positive experience every time. Right now the web site is frustrating every time and opening your bill turns the stomach every time.

deciphering AT&T bill

deciphering AT&T bill

The web site needs to be turned inside out so that it presents, not what you offer and want to sell us, but what we need and may want to buy. The bill is a maze, and we know that you know that, which is still a-mazing to us.

Here’s the killer though. Right now, we don’t have a choice. We have to use your services. When that changes, and it will, we’re gone unless you do something fantastic to convince us otherwise. But time’s running out. We’re not on hold. You are—for the time being.

But the silver lining in our angst is that we are so human that, if you can make things right, we’ll forgive you. Then we’ll stay or come running back for one simple reason: because we LOVE good service and good customer service. These days we can’t get enough of them. And it would be fantastic to see the giant change in these ways.

Yes, I’m an optimist. But somebody in this house has to be. •

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One Response to “Solutions for AT&T”

  1. One can only hope that this post manages, like a baby loggerhead turtle, to make its way past the many, many predators that lie between its place of birth and its home (the top office)…. Or maybe the twitterverse will deploy its awesome resources.


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