This morning as I glanced over postings on social media I read that a number of friends from high school and undergraduate days were frustrated by repeating issues with their internet and cell service. Outreaches to the traditional customer service contacts proved fruitless except for additional practice of personal patience with the various waits for the next representative, holds, transfers, and assurances that they were “valued customers.” We have all been there.
These aggravated friends cannot be classified as uninformed consumers. They consist of highly acclaimed educators, successful business owners, people with professional and terminal degrees, and that common sense, problem solving, just “Git-R-Done” ability they learned from parents and grandparents who without opportunity for extended “book learning” taught my friends and me the advantages and work necessary of both book learning and application in uncontrolled environments. I know that they have already attempted to solve their problems through the traditional customer service routes. Therefore, I’m not listing those procedures but offering a broad outline of some potential “next steps.”
I might be mistaken, but I believe the last time I had any services with AT&T was from one of the Ma Bell branches. Anyway, I’m using AT&T for the example because multiple friends who currently reside in different Parishes mentioned that company so my outline may be helpful to more. Also, since I have no personal experience with the company I might be able to highlight how simple it is to find information to take to those next steps.
First, even though I’m not detailing the initial steps, this information remains a necessity.
1) Know the services that you have and be able to convey how you use those services. The package lingo can be found on your bills. Illustrate how these services are important to your life and business and the effect that having to take the time to continuously complain resulting in increasingly negative repercussions.
2) Explain the problem with a broad overview. Then have a detailed list of dates of communications, with whom you communicated, and any results or lack of results from those communications whether in person, over the phone, or via written correspondence in any form. Also, have a detailed list of all the problems you are experiencing in regard to the actual services. Are they intermittent? Do you believe there are any causations or correlations?
OK, you’ve done all that and nothing has been resolved. That info, however, is still needed.
Since AT&T is my example, let’s learn about the company.
From the homepage, I would search for something like “About Us,” “Company Profile,””Who We Are,” or anything along those lines.
After some point and clicking, I found this overview of the company.
In this case, I only found the name and not contact information for the company head, but I also found an interesting “Code of Conduct” document.
Perhaps someone with an AT&T account can find contact information and a physical address for corporate more easily, but I had to take the long way ‘round the barn. If you ever encounter the same obstacle which might inhibit the quickest access, a Press or Media Relations section will often have that information if “Contact Us” does not.
Now with the name of the CEO and a physical location, I’m looking for more specific contact information. Here, we have biographies for the various executives.
Unfortunately, we are not given direct contact information for the CEO, Randall L. Stephenson, but we have enough for our initial salvo.
The first volley is a letter.
If you have an email address or fax number, those are good so that you can maintain a copy of your inquiry. Regardless, I still recommend a traditional letter because even in today’s world some still view that form of communication with more sincerity solely by requiring an extra step on the sender’s part.
I would address my envelope in this manner:
Attention: Randall L. Stephenson, CEO
208 S. Akard St.
Dallas, TX 75202
The letter, I would begin in this manner:
- Date at the top, skip a couple of lines, Attention: Randall L. Stephenson, CEO, skip a few lines, and begin with a greeting like Dear Mr. Stephenson.
- The first paragraph should be a brief description of your services and how you use them. Please note, that it should be a BRIEF description.
- The next paragraph(s) should outline your problems. Here I would introduce the primary issues and then outline the steps you have taken along with the dates, names, and responses.
- Following a listing of the problems, the next paragraph would have actions you would like to see. For example, if you have been billed additional fees or incurred other charges from the company, you should ask for a waiver. Adjustments for the times of no service, faulty equipment, should be included as well. The primary rule here is to be honest, fair, and reasonable in your requests. At the conclusion of the paragraph, you might decide that the lack of service reached a point where you would discontinue service or take legal action against the company. Do not, however, make statements which you are not ready to complete.
- Conclude with a statement of appreciation for the attention you hope this matter will now receive and a professional closing.
- Be sure to sign the letter and have all of your contact information printed as well.
Often this approach will achieve some results. You may choose to CC a number of executives or send multiple copies of the letter. My personal preference is to let all recipients know that they are within a group who you chose to contact. In other words, I do not recommend using a BCC for email, and on typed letters I included a CC list at the end of the page.
If you desire to make a public complaint, my experience has been that complaints made to the Better Business Bureau can result in the company, in this case AT&T, reaching out to you.
The basic BBB page is here which will direct you to your regional office.
Information about what a BBB complaint is and more importantly is not can be found here:
In my example with AT&T, another route of public complaint is through the Federal Communications Commission.
Details on the complaint process with the FCC can be found here.
Be prepared that it may take multiple attempts to resolve any issue. Especially remember that in the preliminary stages which I did not address in this post. Many times I have dealt with an individual which was akin to banging my head against a brick wall. Either ending that call, getting transferred to another representative, or requesting to speak with a supervisor, however, brought resolution. I cannot guess the number of times that I have wasted time trying to deal with a customer representative with nothing happening and the very same matter being handled within minutes without any form of conflict by another representative.
Perhaps it is a sign of aging and not of society expectations changing, but I make it a point to praise customer service representatives who simply conduct their job professionally and courteously. I’ll ask to speak to their supervisor or jot the supervisor a brief note of appreciation. Before, I would only take that additional step for service that I felt went above and beyond the professionalism I expected. With service that does not meet my expectations, I’ll continue to press until I find a representative who will at least answer questions and address concerns. Sometimes, I made the mistake and there was nothing a representative could do, but I believe they have an obligation to clarify policy or work to prevent others from making a similar mistake or having a bad experience. It’s only when a customer service representative becomes unprofessional with threats, demands, hanging up, or ending communication abruptly that I’ll complain about the type of service received.
I really don’t know if my hope of consistent service has dropped, or if I have just learned to appreciate the simple fact of doing one’s job the way it should be done more.