Jun 04

[Facepalm Friday] AT&T CEO’s Office Threatens Complaining Customer With Legal Action

Photo Credit: SeeMidTN.com (Flickr.com)

I don’t even know what to say here. AT&T, a company I’ve been complaining about for awhile now, has been really irritating its iPhone users with spotty service and other problems. Since AT&T’s customer service is less than stellar and not actually empowered to help customers out, some users have taken to emailing the executive level in hopes that they’ll get a more satisfactory response.

So, a guy named Giorgio Galante (who has also sent executive emails to Steve Jobs of Apple, and even received a response!) sent two emails to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson making a service request and expressing his displeasure with AT&T’s controversial new plan to charge extra money for heavy data users. Stephenson’s office could have sent a form letter, or ignored the message, or even offered some resolution on the matter.

Instead, Stephenson’s office called Galante and told him if he writes another letter, he’ll be facing legal action. Ouch.

Well, as it happens, this wound up being much ado about nothing after tech blogs like Engadget started carrying the story. Galante received a call from a senior VP apologizing for the matter (detailed in this story) and blaming the customer service rep for having a bad day and misunderstanding policy. While Galante accepted that a mistake, he has already decided to switch over to another carrier.

What’s bad about this situation is not Galante’s personal drama, but rather, the fact that the entire story showed up on multiple blogs, aggregators, social networks and other Web 2.0 platforms. Once again, we live in an era now where mishandling a customer can result in huge repercussions online. Customers are empowered by new media; they have the ability to get the word out when they’re treated badly. Companies like AT&T, who already have lower levels of customer satisfaction due to not delivering on service promises, need to take every customer complaint seriously, because if they don’t, they’re likely to find the customer’s side of the story broadcast to thousands, or even millions, of similarly disenfranchised parties.

In the end, it’s much better to acknowledge and resolve problems as they occur than to let the Web get ahold of the story.