at&t and me

Not surprisingly, people really care about their mobile phones and service.  The mobile phone is such an integral part of our life that when benefits are added we notice.  Likewise when we  consistently drop calls it  gets our attention.  I had been a long time AT&T mobile customer, but had experienced a fairly high rate of dropped calls when using my mobile phone in my home.

So with the prospect of adding an additional phone, for my giddy 11 year old daughter, I asked myself should I switch carriers?  This kind of drama plays out daily for AT&T, and every brand to some extent, in its own way.  Often the company/brand doesn't know it is potentially losing a customer, or why.  They just know the result, and often only in aggregate.  So during these pivotal events how do companies keep their customers from jumping ship, or at least understand why they do?

Since I am in the consumer insight and marketing business, it felt only right to give them a shot or at least share why I was leaving.  After registering my complaint of dropped calls I was bounced up a level.  They did some quick testing on my phone and acknowledged the problem.  One possible solution was a MircoCell to boost the signal.  However, these devices are fairly expensive.  To my surprise the representative issued me a credit for $250, and directed me to the AT&T store for the purchase.  While I wasn't crazy about making a special trip, it seemed reasonable given the credit.  At the store a helpful AT&T representative pulled a new MicroCell from stock.  The product was actually only $200, less than my credit.  He then proceeded to tell me there had been other customers who experienced the same problem and as a result he wanted to offer some wireless speakers and an iPhone case for my daughter - at no additional charge.  I didn't want to take advantage of the situation given that I had already received a credit from the AT&T mother-ship.  But even after explaining this to the AT&T representative, he still insisted I take the free products.  He also set up my daughter's new phone to work with the speakers.

So, AT&T was on the verge of losing my business, but instead they not only retained it, but greatly strengthened the relationship.  No easy matter considering their industry.  This brings up an interesting question - how do brands stay close enough to their customers to understand these critical 'stay or go' moments, and intervene at the right time and in the right way to retain them.  Further, how can companies make these positive interventions prevalent throughout their organizations which are sometimes large and complex.  A tough challenge, but AT&T got this one right, at least on the micro level.


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