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Why I love AT&T

December 26, 2009

AT&T has historically been one of worst mobile carriers.  However, my interaction today proved that poll to be completely wrong, I am happy to say. I learned four things about AT&T today:

  1. Sometimes BlackBerries #fail
  2. The customer service representatives do want to help
  3. There are support centers to streamline your life
  4. Sometimes interactions with AT&T are easy AND pleasant

Let me start my saga at the beginning, this is a Blackberry Outage of One:

1. Sometimes Blackberries #fail.

This morning I woke up early and dashed to an appointment.  When I finally had a chance to look at my phone, it seemed completely normal.  I checked my email, made a couple phone calls through speed dial.  Then I tried to check my Facebook application and realized I couldn’t scroll to the right to open the application.  Hmm.

Next the ‘selector’ started spazzing.  It was flying around selecting different icons without my touching the trackball.

Finally, I tried to type in my password (the screen had locked at this point) and not only was the cursor flying around like the ‘selector,’ but the wrong letters were coming up and there were weird symbols in place.

This is when I started having my own meltdown.  During the recent BlackBerry Outage, I endured life without email for a brief period.  So I’ve had a taste of what being disconnected is like (as if I couldn’t remember the stone age before the BlackBerry): Frustrating. But now I couldn’t even get into my phone to try to fix the situation: Infuriating.

2. The customer service representatives do want to help

I immediately called the At&T helpline and was connected to a representative (Daria Hewitt?) within a minute.  She could not have been more patient or helpful.  Basically, my phone is still under warranty (no water or physical damage) so I could get a replacement phone. Then I had two options: either going through the warranty department (could take up to 90 days) or stopping by a local service center (fix the problem that day).  She gave me the the info for the support center and even scheduled a check-up call for next week to make sure everything was resolved.  How lovely :).

However, I was not ready to give up on this phone.  For a brief instance, I thought it could be a software issue, so I wiped the phone.  This is hidden beneath layers of menus and options, mainly because it’s such a last resort option.  Wiping a phone restores everything to the factory settings and deletes all the data.  After the wipe, I still had the same issues, but could no longer connect to the network.  Great.

3. There are support centers to streamline your life

I tried to do some more research on the support center before running to the car.  I had the address, but could not find a phone number.  Being the day after Christmas, I wanted to make sure it was open before trekking over.  Hmm, why would a cell phone center not have a phone number published?  I wondered if customer service had given me the run around.

In my phone-less mania, I decided just to jump in the car and drive to the support center, which happens to be 25 minutes from my house — it’s the only one in the state.  After nearly driving by the nondescript building, I pulled into the parking lot and saw other cars = warm bodies, this was a good sign.  The support center must be open at the very least.  Walking in, the room felt more like a sterile dentist’s office than a mobile phone support center.  I checked in on the form and sat in the seats until my turn.

There were about 4 people ahead of me and 2 representatives — I thought this might take a while.  However, the line moved remarkably fast.  Not only were the representatives helpful, but they went out of their way to be thorough for the people in front of me.  This is such a rare quality, I didn’t mind waiting the extra few minutes.  One woman’s phone was out of stock, but the representative explained the process (including prepaid priority mail boxes) and that she would have her phone by Tuesday (it is Saturday).  Not a bad turn around.  Still, I hoped my phone was in stock….

Now, it was my turn.  I explained the situation: roller ball, cursor, keyboard.  The rep asked, “Have you tried cleaning it with Purell?”  Um, No.  Apparently, gunk (the technical term) can get into the ball causing it to malfunction, but the alcohol based Purell cleans it up.  Amazing.  However, my phone was too far gone to be salvaged by Purell :(.

Given I had already wiped it, there wasn’t much for the rep to do expect give me a new refurbished phone. Luckily, I had everything backed up with Google Sync, so all my contacts were intact and the new BBM saved all my BlackBerry contacts, so I didn’t have to deal with new PINs.  Other than downloading the necessary UberTwitter and Pandora, the process of outfitting my new phone was pretty painless itself.

4. Sometimes interactions with AT&T are easy AND pleasant

Basically, I tried to do everything I could so not to deal with the people at AT&T.   However, every step of the way I was pleasantly surprised.  But, it occurred to me, most of the time I am at a retail store, not working with customer service.  Retailers are inherently the villain they are trying to take your money.  Customer service already has your money and wants to keep getting it.   Maybe AT&T ought to retrain their retailers to bring up reform their service and bring up customer satisfaction levels.

From the initial phone call to the service center, everything was easy.  It really made my day.  So, thank you, AT&T and the people at the support center for my new-ish phone!

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