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Dear ATT.

Tuesday I got really mad at you. Openly mad.

I expressed my anger on Twitter. Geez…

Which sucks, because anger attracts anger just like happiness attracts happiness.

It’s hard to explain really, but I feel like both options for internet and television services in my area are not very, well… people focused or friendly.

Charter is my only other option besides you.

I changed to your U-verse service about a year or so ago and I had high hopes.  And I thought it would be cool to have HD. Long story short, but IT NEVER WORKED quite right. If you sneezed it got derailed. A random rainstorm could down my internet. I’ve had about 3 or 4 tech guys out on separate occasions and of course it worked perfect when they were there.

But with no internet and no TV Monday night (again), I agreed to one last tech visit. You promised a “most senior” guy this time. He was supposed to come between 4-8 but he called my office at 2:30.


I stopped what I was doing and went home to meet him.  And lucky for me he was great! He took one look at my wiring set up and said, “I can’t believe this. It’s completely wired wrong. Someone just tried to wire it to the old Charter line. I can’t believe you ever got reception with it set up this way.”


This wonderful Senior Tech begins to put in a real ATT line. While I’m waiting, I decide to try again to cancel my data plan for my ipad.

A data plan I never needed. 

This was my second attempt to cancel this unneeded data service with you. I gave up on my first try a couple of months ago. Well, over 49 minutes later and with 4-5 transfers to different departments, I lost my cool.

 Big time.

 I was mad. Cussing mad.

Hard to explain.

It finally got resolved, but it took a lot of grief and effort just to cancel my $14.99 a month plan. It actually felt like the people I talked with were purposely making it hard, so I’d give up. I threatened to call the BBB. I would go into great detail here and tell you about how one of your employees actually took my credit card number, then disconnected me when he put me on hold, but it really doesn’t matter.

I came to realize that service at such a large scale as yours might never be remarkable or great.

I hate to admit that, but maybe it’s just the truth. Maybe when there are so few options for a particular service, there is just not much reason to work on skills like listening or empathy. Or to create plans and reward people for NOT transferring customers from department to department. It might not be possible to trust or empower a large staff from all parts of the world to settle issue using their own smart, judgement.  Or even use their own words for showing kindness.

There may not even be a reason for trying to set a more definitive appointment time for repairs. 12-4 pm is not an appointment time.

I got my last call from you about 9pm Tuesday night.

Your employee shared with me that I had been “red flagged” since I was so mad. He said to me, “It sounds like you are very unhappy with our service. I am not speaking as ATT when I say this, but perhaps you should not use our services anymore.”

 Hmmm. He might have gone off script?

 You know what I wanted you to say?

“We’re sorry that we set your service up wrong, Robbin. We are sorry we didn’t believe you that 3 or 4 times we sent out a junior tech. We’re human and we obviously made a technical mistake that has cost you time and effort and frustration. What can we do to make you happy?”

But that was not on your scripts. (And boy have you got some scripts.)  Admitting fault also must not be allowed at your company.

I sure hope the nice tech guy is not in trouble for telling me the real issue with the lines.

So. I am sorry ATT. Tuesday I ABSOLUTELY was not the woman I want to be.

I over reacted and failed to see your side of the story. I failed to have empathy for you. You’re simply just not able to create relationships or even have much of a human, empathic dialogue with those of us that need to use your services.

There is such a thing as too big to care and that really breaks my heart.

While I was ranting, I remember saying something to this effect:

“This is America! We should do better than this! Can’t you try just a little bit harder? Why can’t the brilliant minds at ATT remember their roots (connecting people) and find ways to do just that with their customers?”

I woke this morning feeling sorry for you, ATT. All of you. The great tech guy, the numerous sales reps I touched and ranted to, the CMOs, the social media folks (yes, I know a few of you personally) and the CEO.

It must be very, very hard to have so many customers, from so many walks of life.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have to speak from a script. Or to ask your employees to work off a script when dealing with people.  I just can’t imagine that life from anyone’s point of view.

So from now on, I will try and understand what you are up against, in case we have to interact ever again. I will rethink what is actually truly possible and accept that you are most likely just doing the very best you can do.

You have my word on that. 



  • Christy Sherman

    I think you’re giving them too much grace. What they’ve done during your experience is the stuff of schiesters. Then again, you contain more grace and forgiveness than any human I know. And just maybe they’ll get the message by way of the kindness you extend to them… and maybe I can follow you, and a bunch more people can follow, and by that growth of grace, they may finally be moved.

    • Robbin Phillips

      Someone on twitter commented that Zappo and Amazon have customers serice at scale down. It was a great point. I think so that so many of the mundane things could be handled online, rather than dealing with human robots talking off a script. Intuit Tax Filing has it down!

      What I hated about the entire exchange that you are alluding to here, is it brought out THE WORST in ME to deal with them. Maybe by showing kindness and compassion….Maybe???

      • Christy Sherman

        Hmmm… I’ve been studying how the people around me affect me. They *do*. And when I’m surrounded by great people, I strive to be great, too. Okay, so why didn’t this work the other way? What makes the bad take over, when the good should be running the show? I have no idea. I wonder if it’s like the “green” post today. We get complacent, being surrounded by mutually graceful people, and we let our guard down.

        Or, is it that simply the organization can’t hear past the dollar signs? That would be a very sad state of affairs. I’m hoping for the forme.

  • eric b. whitlock

    Robbin, you have way more patience than I. I just cancel the plans of the undesired IPS and not let it get under my skin. We’ve been with Charter for years and I give them my highest recommendation. They have always been responsive, corrected the issues and thrown us bones when they could have charged us. It’s time to switch my dear.

    • Robbin Phillips

      Don’t you think it’s a roll of the dice. I had the before I switched and found them hard to deal with too. But the service worked as I recall!

      • eric b. whitlock

        Good question. I like Charter because it’s a cable in the ground. I may be off on this, but all other IPS providers use a dish or a phone line which has smaller ban width and is subject to weather.

  • neilbeam

    Hi Robbin, So sorry you ran into this. I sent your post on to some of our friends over there.

    • Robbin Phillips

      Thanks Neil. I thought long and hard about writing it as you can imagine.

      • neilbeam

        I certainly CAN imagine. The team there are both colleagues and friends.

        I find myself having more frequent conversations with folks about the perceived loss of care in the daily interactions we have. I imagine there was a time when one relied on and interacted with a close(er) community where more people were known and therefore required to be civil, thoughtful or at least understand the direct link to the outcomes of our behaviors and actions. Today, too many interactions take place behind a wall of anonymity or with people in a system/company they can’t change – this interrupts that linkage between actions and outcomes.
        Well, that is my philosophizing for the day :-)

  • Nonprofit Manager

    We are saddled with AT&T at work. It is the most disgusting case of buyer beware I have ever encountered. I have spent countless hours on hold, been disconnected a score of times, had senior sales staff “no show” for scheduled conference calls, been ignored, you name it. We spent over 12 months trying to have a billing issue fixed. Then they told us they only look back six months for credits. I have nothing but contempt for AT&T.

  • Greg Haag

    Hi Robbin,

    I’m sorry you had such a frustrating experience and that it made you into something you’re not, that’s really the worst part. I know how that is first-hand. I worked for AT&T for almost 12 years on the retail phone side. Our goal was to sell and helping customers was not a part of the plan. Employees had their sales performance thrown in their faces daily. You were told to sell or you could be out of a job by the end of the week. That environment made me numb. It changed who I was because I naturally want to help.

    I made a decision that if I was going to get fired I was going down on my terms. So instead, my goal was to help one person a day; the person that really needed it. Then I could go home feeling good about my day. Before I got on the phones each morning I said to myself, “Who am I going to help today?” and “What’s going to happen to me today, that’s never happened before?” This second question was important because instead of looking at a call as difficult, it made it challenging. And if I could learn something new it would help me down the road to help someone else out.

    The funny thing is, soon after taking this approach, where I ignored my sales quota, I was helping more than one person a day. And the most dramatic thing was that I started meeting my sales quota month after month. I was one of the high sales reps in the call center. When I was called into a meeting to help improve sales in the call center, I suggested they get rid of the sales objective and focus on helping customers. My idea was dismissed and I was ignored the rest of the meeting.

    So, that is the problem; no one wants to change. They didn’t even want to know why I said what I said. So, they muddle through, upsetting customer after customer and generate revenue only because they are a huge company. But, they could be so much more. So, I think about the person who is numb to life on the other end of the phone when I call somewhere and feel sorry for them. They don’t have the opportunity to change things.

    Thankfully my job was downsized (scary at the time, but a real blessing now). I haven’t looked back since. Hopefully next time you get someone who hasn’t been numbed to the experience of helping.

    • Robbin Phillips

      Thank you for sharing this story and how you dealt with it Greg. I have a lot of empathy with their employees now. And I have to say the social media team has done a great job of stepping in.

  • stressed beyond fair

    -from the inside—at att they are losing people faster than they can hire them at their call centers—and there’s a union!-your experience is very, very, typical and what we hear about all day every day–we are ‘graded’ on how fast we deal with the customer and —-and whether or not they call back in a month—ever second we take to fix a problem counts against us—and these metrics are weighted—the time we take to fix a problem counts against us—2x for effect—so if we just hang up that is better in one metric —we see our friends one day and then they are gone—“didn’t meet the metrics”–nothing in the hiring process about that—so if you research a problem or try to make sure everything is ok—you’ll eventually be fired—-they don’t care about keeping their own employees and think they are going to keep customers……

    • Robbin Phillips

      Thank you for sharing your experience. This is s a tragic story on many fronts.