What’s wrong with this picture? (errrr… phone service?)

Companies usually hire me for my “customer experience” advice, but I’m going to give AT&T this for free:  Empower the reps in your stores to do what’s right for your customers.   

A couple of months ago, I complained about my experience with AT&T when my Razr died, and graded them a B-.  They just declined to a D in my book.  And they are heading south fast. 

I’m two months into a two-year contract extension with my replacement Razr.  In the last week, I’ve realized I need to upgrade to a Blackberry-like device.  I cheerfully gave up my Treo two years ago when I left Eclipse Aviation.  I genuinely like not being available all the time.  But now I’m taking a more operational role with one of my clients and I need to be more tuned in. 

I popped into my local AT&T store on Saturday to check out their offerings.  A very knowledgeable and professional salesperson showed me their devices and explained that the Blackberry 8300 costs $200 with a two-year contract or roughly $450 with no contract.  The Blackberry service fee would add $29.99/month to my bill.  I’m not far into my research yet, but at $200, most likely I would have ultimately ended up with that Blackberry from AT&T.  After all, I have a contract with them.  And I don’t have a lot of patience for seeking out the best deal. 

Then the fun began.  When the rep looked me up in the system and saw that I extended the contract just two months ago, she informed me that I would have to pay $450 for the Blackberry.  To get the lower price, I would have to wait until 6 months into my contract.  Hmmm, they want to penalize me $250 for already being a customer?! 

The cost to buy out my contract is $175, I learned.  So it is actually cheaper for me to leave AT&T than to stay.  It doesn’t take a marketing genius to realize that does not make sense for AT&T.   I can only guess at the internal discussion that resulted in this policy. 

I pushed the point.  The rep told me that when I was ready to buy she would give me the phone number for the customer service group, which has a “Save the customer” SWAT team that just MIGHT waive this requirement for me.  Golly!  I have the opportunity to give them a chance to save me, but only if I jump through hoops to do so. All the rep had to do say to make me happy is say “You’re right.  In your case, this policy doesn’t make sense.  We’ll waive the requirement.” 

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