Okay, guess what. Since this is my blog, I reserve the right to shake it up now and then. Yes, I normally write about vegan eats, workouts, and my crazy life, but today – new programming. People who know me know that I am quite outspoken and am not shy about expressing my opinion on anything that is important to me. Due to recent experiences and a refusal to be taken advantage of by a large company, I have penned the blow letter (which D lovingly refers to as my AT&T Manifesto).
So…regular programming will resume, but for now I wanted to share, and if you’re so inclined….help this go viral. I believe that individual voices matter, and, combined, we can make a difference. Help me make a difference.
Much thanks – Crissie
An Open Letter to AT&T, the American Cellphone Using Public, and ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN
Be aware that I have not changed any names or dates because there is no one innocent here. I use real names, real case numbers, and everything below is completely accurate. I wish this were a tall tale of fictional nightmares to tell around a campfire. Alas my friends, this is a true horror story of one girl being screwed by a big company.
March 10, 2015
My name is Christine and I’m here to tell you a horrible tale. This is a story not only specifically about the ridiculously terrible customer service AT&T has rendered to me recently, but a larger story about how we, the American people, are helpless to force them to change.
First, a brief (ish) history to set the stage….
In April of 2014, I made a big leap in terms of cell phones. I ditched my iPhone and went to a Windows OS. While a huge device (think 1980’s boom box on your shoulder), I absolutely loved my red Nokia 1520. It started conversations wherever I went, and everyone was fascinated. I immediately had issues sending and receiving text messages (though it took weeks to figure it out). We eventually found that it was because I had an iPhone previously, and everyone I knew had to delete and re-add me. A pain in the butt to be sure, but not AT&T’s fault at all.
Fast forward to mid-January of this year, 2015. My beloved phone was dropped and broke. I couldn’t receive calls, texts, or use it at all. And here is where the first nightmare began. It took nearly two weeks of calling (and not getting promised returned calls), attempting to get an upgrade to replace my phone (we were eligible). I took to social media (YAY TWITTER) and the @ATTCares contacted me, truly tried to help, but ultimately failed. AT&T refused to work with us, and in my frustration, we ended up just buying a replacement (had no choice really – which they counted on, I’m sure!). The red color was no longer available, and while I loved my large phone, I missed having something that could fit in my pocket. So I went with the HTC One M8 with Window’s OS on January 27th.
I often have issues sending texts (getting error messages), but have always assumed it was related to my original issue of jumping off the iPhone bandwagon (by the way, it’s a problem for everyone, and Apple is currently being sued because they make it extremely difficult to untie yourself from their iMessaging). Anyway, I digress….
I kept having the same issues I had been having for nearly a year, and didn’t think much of it. It was annoying, but not necessarily earth shattering. It wasn’t until the first couple of days of March I realized something was very wrong. My family was annoyed I wasn’t participating in group messages. I was annoyed that no one was responding to ones I sent. My kids weren’t getting the funny pictures I was sending them, and I was no longer getting my daily picture my husband takes of him and our little one (I travel for work on occasion, and it’s my lifeline back home). And work….I am IT Director in a very large organization, and you can imagine that it’s via text messages that we often communicate. I missed messages from my teams and my peers. I missed important meetings…..and eventually realized it was because I could not receive nor send any MMS messages. Try explaining to the boss that AT&T “ate your homework” and that’s why you weren’t at a critical meeting…
It may not seem like a big deal to a corporate giant like AT&T that I didn’t get my daily husband/daughter picture or that their cell service was compromising me professionally, but it’s a very big deal to me.
And here begins the true nightmare….
I was traveling, so my husband called the AT&T customer service line on 3/4/15. They were quite helpful, and referred him to the advanced technical help desk. I was in my hotel room, and Jessie called me to see if he could help. He was wonderful and tried a ton of tricks for nearly an hour, but with no luck. He created a case (#100640249 if you care) to escalate to the next team. I was told that this was going to the Urgent Care team and would get a call. They promised all would be fixed no later than 3/9/15.
I received a call from Kelli on 3/6/14 to discuss my case. I was asked to try a few things (switching SIM cards with other phones) to see if we could narrow down the problem. Good plan. When I got home from my travels, we did that. Messaging worked fine when my SIM was in my daughter’s phone, but with her SIM in my phone, it didn’t receive messages. Seems simple. It’s the device. Did I mention I work in IT? I know how to test, troubleshoot, and narrow down issues. I called the Urgent Care (by the way – here’s their number….606-925-4428….no one will EVER answer, but you can blow up their voicemail) and let them know the results of our tests. It was a weekend, so I understand why no one called me back until Monday.
On 3/9/15, I received a return call from Kelli, who said they could replace my phone with a used one. And here, my friends, is where the drama begins. I said no. I was not going to replace my brand new phone with a used one. I spend an average of $4200 per year on AT&T mobile services (5 lines and a few other devices), and the least they can do is replace my BRAND NEW PHONE with another NEW PHONE. Here is where I mistakenly believed that AT&T valued their customers. So back to Kelli and my demand for a brand shiny new phone to replace my broken brand shiny new phone. Yeah….she wasn’t authorized to do that. So, I asked for her supervisor and was given to Kelly Porter.
This is where it almost gets funny. Almost. At first she said that she can’t replace my phone because buyer’s remorse only covered 4 days, and because my new phone was activated on 1/27/15 and it was now 3/9/15, that I was SOL. Containing my simmering rage, I explained that this wasn’t buyer’s remorse (sad I had to explain that). I didn’t change my mind. My phone was defective and I needed a new one. (AT&T…if you’re listening…I hope you recorded these calls for “customer service” and circle back with your people on textbook examples of what NOT to do). Ms. Porter than proceeds to tell me that she has a hard time believing I just now noticed it was a problem, and can’t justify sending me a new phone – but under “Warranty Replacement” can give me a used one. This is the line I drew. No used phone. That’s it. I’m not debating that my phone is defective. I’m not debating that they tried every trick in their book to help fix it. But at $4200 dollars a year and a 6 week old phone, I’d be damned to take a used one. And this, my readers, is where the battle began.
When Ms. Porter explained to me at 11:15 AM EST that she was not authorized to okay a new phone vs. a used one, I asked to speak to her boss. I was told her boss was in a meeting and would call me back. As of this writing, that was 35 hours ago. Guess who hasn’t returned my call?? I’ve called the above mentioned urgent care line FOUR times to leave messages. No return calls.
So, I took to social media once again. I tweeted “So @ATT is still screwing up my life. Gives me a bad phone and now won’t replace it w a new one. My $4200/yr doesn’t buy much”. Within minutes I had @ATTCares private messaging me to try and help. I explain the situation to Sabine, and guess what I found out? THIS IS A KNOWN ISSUE. Seriously…what the heck? I spent 5 days talking to the knuckleheads at AT&T and the help desk, advanced technical help desk, and urgent care desk, and none of them knew that this was a known problem? Good grief. So…I called AT&T again. Left a message, and nothing.
Meanwhile, I’m Googling the heck out of this, and low and behold….there are tons of reports of this issue. And, while I’m at it, TONS of complaints about how horrible the customer service is at AT&T. I hear ya people. I feel your pain.
So, I try looking up phone numbers to try and get someone, anyone, to talk to me. Guess what? There are none! In fact, if you try to contact the CEO (and good luck trying to find a number!), customer service routes the complaint to their legal team. http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/blog-post/1652416/complaint-at-t-ceo-result-legal-action if you don’t quite believe me. Really? Perhaps if AT&T took their customer service seriously and allowed free and open communications, they wouldn’t have to hide.
In a desperate attempt to get a live body on the phone, I called the main number again. A poor (but very nice) guy named Alex answered. He looked up my account, found the tons of notes, and confirmed that someone was supposed to call me, but didn’t (I already knew that, but that wasn’t his fault). To his credit, Alex really tried. In fact, he called me today to see if he could still help. Poor kid had a good heart, but was not empowered to actually give any customer service.
I asked him to forward me to the Executive Help Desk (I know there is one) or anyone in a leadership role. He wasn’t allowed. In fact, he told me that there are internal departments that don’t publish their phone numbers – even internally – so customers can’t make demands to talk to them. He felt for me – he really did – but ultimately was not allowed to provide the level of customer service that I needed.
Meanwhile, a man named Mark called me to let me know my case had been escalated to his department and that a manager would call me today. I believe he said he was from the Specialty Help Desk, but he was hard to understand. When I told him I didn’t have much faith anyone would call, he almost fell over himself promising I’d get a call today. Okay guys, its 830pm, and I’ve gotten nothing. Liars, the lot of them.
So back to social media I went. This time I said “Buckle up @ATT – I’m contacting the news, the FCC, the BBB, reddit, and anyone that will listen. Going viral w the worst cust serv ever”.
Back home, my husband was working his own magic….
Because he is wonderful (and sick to death of listening to me rant), he made a call. Being sweet as pie, explained to the customer service rep that he “lost” the phone number for the executive team, and needed to return a call. Guess what he got? The office of the president. Yes, it turns out they DO have the numbers, but won’t give them out (cowards). I guess my plea to be treated fairly wasn’t at all powerful, but my sweet husband made it happen by being nice and fibbing. I’ll need to remember this for the future! (And there’s a lifelong lesson here…you get more bees with sugar than logic…).
He got Betty. Betty, per my husband, was awesome. Listened to everything, was appropriately horrified on our behalf, assigned an Office of the President case number (CM20150310_100815356), and promised they will fix this in the next few days.
Time will tell, and if they do manage one epic service recovery, I’ll let you know.
In the end, this is ALL about giving me a new phone versus a used phone. Anyone else see how ridiculous this is??
So here are my main arguments/thoughts (and thanks for sticking with all my rambling)
- I’d be fired if I gave customer service the way AT&T does
- don’t call your staff Customer Service if they’re not allowed to actually provide customer service….
- In the end, there are only two real players in the market – AT&T and Verizon (sure Sprint, T-Mobile and others try, but can’t really compete). So ultimately – we are stuck with however they want to treat us because in the end, we really have NO CHOICE.
- Despite spending a small fortune, they honestly don’t care because they know you won’t leave them.
- We have oligopolies in the cell phone market because there is no competition (we won’t get into why, but a simple search will tell you). There is no competition so they create their own market structure. Dumb or dumber….you pick the lesser of evils. And make no mistake – based on my experiences (and thousands like me if you just Google it), they know we have no choices and it’s either put up with their crap or go without.
- They have some people who truly want to help (Jessie and Alex and Sabine at @ATTCares wanted to…but weren’t empowered to. That’s a leadership failure of massive proportions). Betty seems to want to, but again, time will tell on that one. Kelli and Kelly and Mark…not so much.
- The head of their customer service division should be fired (and hey AT&T….I’m not cheap, but I could totally turn this hell you’ve created around – and you should very much want to change. Who better than a wronged customer to identify where you need to focus?!?)
So do me a favor. Speak up!!! Share this letter to anyone and everyone. Retweet it, up vote it on Reddit, post it on Facebook, send it to your Congressman, and send it to your local news. Anything to force a change…because they won’t unless we do!