Monday, May 11, 2009

iHype or not

I must admit that I'm a cheapskate and never want to overpay for the latest gadget. In this case I waited out for the iphone 3G and only broke down three days after I could renew at the "new customer price". I will post later about my thoughts on the iphone, but for now lets talk about the customer experience getting there.

First issue I had was the fact that my wife wanted, no actually needed a new phone. She was using a "hand-me down" LG, due to the fact that her phone broke and she didn't want to pay full price for a replacement. Her goal was to get a new phone with a qwerty keyboard. As you know mother's day is recently and so is her birthday towards the end of the month. I wanted to be a good husband and try to get her something new.

My first problem is that I couldn't spend a lot over rebate. She told me that she would wait if it was too expensive. AT&T had "qwerty" dumbphones for about $200 after rebate unless you wanted a panatech. My strategy was then to someone leverage my upgrade eligibility to get her a new phone and still get an iphone for myself.

I called AT&T and asked them what I should do, saying that I don't want to pay full price, but want to get her a phone still. Basically I was told the only option was to wait until her phone was eligible. I understood this, since they mark down the phones by $100 to $200 and then charge you probably about $10 to $20 a month more for service over the life of the contract. I was frustrated so I decided perhaps I should try the corporate store again.

My last experience with the corporate store was great. In fact so great that I basically thought it would not be a problem. Instead I get the most helpless person, in the store. The sales guy basically said corporate tied his hands and he could do nothing, call up the line again. I thought this is strange. If I'm at the AT&T store owned by AT&T why can't one part do what another part of the company can do. I'm like most people it's simply AT&T, I don't care about your structure, I want "one face" to me.

Anyway I end up calling the 611 line again and get a guy who actually listens. I tell him my general story and what I want to and the fact that I don't expect a full discount, but can you meet me halfway in between. The gentleman was pleasant to deal with and basically was example of how to do customer correctly. He could have not have solved my problem, but I would have been still somewhat satisfied, because he took the time to listen. I need to send a comment back to AT&T thanking them.

So we ordered a Samsung Propel for my wife and now it was time for me. Well the website for AT&T could no longer let me upgrade online. After dealing with the one guy in person, I really did not want to go back to that store. I was very leery of another experience of someone who acted helpless and didn't want to do anything. I ended finding another corporate store, that recently moved due to a freeway being being put where the building stands.

The store was slow when I went in(which is usually not the case for AT&T) and immediately I was greeted and told the guy I wanted to upgrade to iphone. He immediately just pulled up the account and started the process. He was very friendly and was another great example of how to interact with a customer. When I get my customer feedback survey, I will make sure he gets high marks from me.

In the end I got the iphone last Saturday and my wife's phone arrived today via UPS. We both generally happy with the new devices. The moral of my story is that listening to the customer is probably job #1 in order to get the sale or retain that customer. In addition procedures to prevent fraud/etc. can't be too inflexible where it will cause the customer to want to leave. If I could get the "special deal" via the phone, why can't it be done via any channel. Multichannel is not effective if can not handle normal exceptions.

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