AT&T's lesson re: Customer Service and Market Control
It's a dangerous, fraught with potential position to have a the only rights to a high demand product. It's dangerous because it requires increased responsibility on the part of the company in control , outstanding customer service and a sincere assessment of current operations in order to effectively manage the increased demand. Having the contract is only half the battle; now you have to manage the thousands of eager customers who want the product that only you can provide. There is immense pressure and high expectations, but if executed properly, can increase customer base, customer loyalty, brand strength and so much more.
I would argue that one of the most important of those responsibilities is customer service. At the most basic level customer service is simply the act of serving a customer. The better you do this the happier the customer is. The happier the customer the more apt they are to continue to buy from you and recommend you to others. Great customer service (to employees and paying clients) leads to employee and client retention, growth and just a happier community in general. It amazes me that more and more companies don't get this.
The great thing about customers trusting that you will take care of them is that they're not as worried when you screw up, because they trust you'll fix it. Compare that to a company whose actions don't correspond to quick or even effective solutions and you'll see that the lack of trust is a huge obstacle for companies to overcome.
AT&T is a company that missed the memo on that time and time again.
As time passes, if the ONLY reason someone solicits business from your company is because you own sole access to a high demand product, when you lose control over that product, you will lose customers. It is only a matter of time before other opportunities open up or your technology becomes outdated and surpassed and when it does, you will garnish no loyalty from the people who gave you a chance and you continually let them down. What you do have as your dwindling assets are convenience (customers are too lazy to leave) and the threat of harsh fiscal penalties for those that cancel. But that is no way to run a successful business or maintain a client base.
I purchased an iPhone from them because I didn't want to wait months until Verizon began running iPhones. They (AT&T) still had a monopoly. They had market control. I didn't go to AT&T for any other reason than that. In fact, I had heard horrible reviews of the company, but decided to take a chance.
And my experience from day one has been horrible. It reminds me all too much of my days at a certain bank where the employees worked really hard to help the customers but weren't armed with adequate tools or information. The result was a really frustrated workforce and a very angry customer base. Where there is no confidence in the information provided, it costs the company in time, revenue and resources. Clients will call back 10 times to verify the information was correct and employees- tired of poor treatment and acting as the front lines for their company- leave. I wouldn't be surprised if a similar scenario doesn't exist at the company.
Incorrect information and unfulfilled promises are common, but above all, horrible customer service is rampant. They continually tell me things that are proven otherwise. Calls constantly dropping, employee discounts not being processed and when they are, they are totally incorrect and hours of disputes with local branches who cannot provide me with the correct information. This led to my credit being pulling twice unnecessarily, which for me is totally unacceptable. That is no small mistake! To all of this people have given me credits to my account, which was very nice of these employees, but that isn't what I ultimately want. I wanted AT&T to give me the correct information, to be nice, friendly and human when I call and to fix the problem, especially when they messed up. Stop blaming and punishing me for your lack of competence.
So as my financial position continues to increase and AT&T loses their niche position with Apple (now you can get unlocked iPhones so you can use them with almost any carrier) I am left with absolutely no loyalty to them. In fact, I eagerly look to the day when I leave the company and never, ever look back.
A friend once said to me, "Lauryn, that's so strange. I've never had a problem with AT&T. But then again I never call anyone or have asked them to do anything."
Great opportunity begets great responsibility. What T-Mobile, Wegmans and Mailchimp seem to understand is that great, timely customer service is first and foremost. That's good business.