UPDATE: I've added several postscripts to the bottom of this. Combined with today's information makes this worthy of a republish. Today I got a phonecall from AT&T (ok, what part? no clue...) to personally 'clarify' my concern and escallate this issue to management. At least there 'is' a mechanism and it's active enough that this case made it into the pipeline. What surprised me was that I had to paint a picture for the caller. They don't personally have an email account like this..."here's your sign".
Orignially published June 18, 2007
I'm still on hold as I'm writing this...such is the beauty of the 'channel of one' that blogs afford.
Companies need to begin paying attention to something besides the bottom line. They're missing 98% of the reason that dollars show up there in the first place...relationships.
If people paid as little attention to their relationships that most 'big' businesses do...we'd solve the population explosion. There's a lot of 'lip service' out there to customer-centric, but it's all a checklist, "Yep, I've got someone working on that." Forrester even has shown the numbers...no progress over the last 3 years in 'doing' anything about those great intents.
So, here I am on the phone stuck between two call centers: one that is supposed to help me with my 'issues' (but only the ones they have scripts for), and the other one that can close my entire relationship with AT&T...and there is not a single business executive in the mix to realize what is going on or why. So I'm telling them here.
It's not like I haven't tried (and oh-by-the-way...this costs me time and money too...multiply that by even 100,000 customers and that's a lot of time and money). I wrote an email...it went to Yahoo! My question was, according to them, something that AT&T needed to handle.
Weeks later (who has time to waste like this, going nowhere fast?) I was online again. I opted into the online chat...I was 56th in line and it was moving about 1 a minute -- you do the math. I was able to find a phone number. I called. The support line, mentioned before, could only address 'real' problems...mine didn't qualify.
I insisted that I be escalated. They didn't even have an escalation proceedure. So I gave them one..."Escalate this so that I can close my ENTIRE relationship with AT&T."
Now I'm on the phone with account close. They're asking me for information only available on my bill...never mind that I do all my billing online (so can you wait for 5 mintues while I go through your interactions to bring up a bill so I can look at it? -- who tests these rediculous scenarios anyway?).
What's the big deal anyway? Paying for a free service.
Anyone can sign up for a free Yahoo! email account. It comes with advertisement banners on every page. Until recently 'not' getting those banners was the benefit of paying for my AT&T | Yahoo! account. Not any more. My paid account now has advertisement all over it. So why do I need to pay for this experience?
Someone has made the decision to 'add' this to the experience without considering the implications. Maybe I'm a lone voice...I hope that I'm not [apparenly not]. We shouldn't allow our relationships to be prostituted in this way (as it is, this email account was originally owned by MCI...it was sold 3 times before it got to AT&T...I didn't change, they did).
I am looking for AT&T to take accountability for the products/services and corresponding experiences that they are selling...otherwise, the field is white with competition. Anyone ready for a new client?
I realize this is not world hunger...what it is, is companies being irresponsible in their decisions and their impact to customers...the whole reason for their existence. Ok, maybe for someone like AT&T, commercial accounts are worth a lot more...but if we can get 100,000 voices to stand up as a collective...they'd carry a little weight.
The beauty of 'online' is the nature by which one voice gains velocity and intensity through the inflection of others. The voiceless now can be heard. Relationships are not humanless processes.
Black isn't the only color cars can be made in.
I have continued to raise this 'voice' through any and every channel that I can. I posted a comment through the 'abuse' channel (the options didn't give me too many choices). I received a response dated Jul.03.07, which stated the following:
We apologize for the inconvenience. The advertising is a needed step
towards providing world class service at an affordable price.
If you could see the dancing aliens that come up and take up half the page as I'm trying to read a personal email, I'm not sure you'd classify it as "world class". Call it what you will, it still smacks of prostitution.
Imagine you've just sent a tender email to your near-delivery pregnant daughter, only to have a 5" ape jumping up and down on your screen pounding his chest. Each time an ad shows up it reminds me how much I hate doing business with AT&T.
That's the kind of negative relationship equity companies would pay to avoid.
Instead, we get to pay for the priviledge of being annoyed.