AT&T Needs Help With Its Customer Service: Legal Threats and New Data Plans
In this short holiday week, AT&T had managed to commit two customer service blunders by Wednesday. The first involves a customer's complaint to AT&T, and the second involves AT&T's restructuring of its data plans.
A dissatisfied AT&T customer wrote to the CEO (that's Chief Executive Officer, head honcho, big cheese, top dawg, da big boss man) on two separate occasions. The first had some questions about the iPhone, and the second voiced his concern about AT&T's new data rates. Typically, the general response from a CEO is a form letter saying thank you for your message, it is duly noted, and keep on buying our stuff. Some CEOs will respond personally. But, if you are the CEO of AT&T, you send your disastisfied customer a threat. Well, maybe a warning is a better word. An AT&T employee "warned" the customer that if the messages did not stop, AT&T would send him a cease and desist letter. Nice!
Fortunately, AT&T felt the scorn of the media and the online community and apologized. It's great that the CEO (or AT&T's PR department) owned up to the mistake, but why was there a mistake to apologize for in the first place? To continue my earlier rant, I still believe that it is more efficient for companies to provide its existing customers PROPER CUSTOMER SERVICE than to simply treat them like dirt.
AT&T's second blunder involves the restructuring of its data plans. Previously, smart phone customers had the option of a $30 unlimited data plan. Unlimited here didn't necessarily mean unlimited, but it at least went up to a 5 GB cap. Now, the maximum plan, dubbed the DataPro plan, is $25 a month for 2 GB of data. Sure, AT&T gives you the option to purchase additional data if you want to go above and beyond 2 GB, at a price of $10 per GB. This means to hit that 5 GB limit with the older data plan, you'd pay $30. With the new plan, it'll cost you the initial $25 for 2 GB, plus another $30 for the extra 3 GB of data, for a grand total of $55.
Nice, AT&T. Now your customers get to pay more for less. What additional benefit will your customers receive? Are you going to upgrade your network to handle the data (more if AT&T can get more customers, less if the new data plans are cost prohibitive to new customers) that will be traversing your network? When I had an iPhone, AT&T's network could barley handle sending an MMS picture text. I don't know how AT&T's network can handle the new rumored iPhone's alleged video chat capabilities.
In addition to the DataPro plan, AT&T also unveiled a DataPlus plan. For $15 a month, users get 200 MB (for comparison, 1 GB is roughly 1000 MB) to send e-mails and browse the web. While this isn't very much data, this may be a smart move for AT&T to capture low-data users who want a smart phone but don't want to fork out the high cost of data. However, if you exceed the 200 MB cap, AT&T will gladly add on another 200 MB for you to use.. for $15. This means that if you send an e-mail with a 3 MB attachment when you have used 198 MB for the month, you'll be pushed into the next bracket. Your monthly data use for that month will be $30. This is more than the DataPro plan at 2 GB per month, and the SAME COST as AT&T's previously unlimited plan.
Not everyone shares my sentiment that this is a bad thing. Some view it as a step in the right direction to provide innovation in the mobile data market, while others view it as a way to increase low-data using consumer acceptance of smart phones.
I agree that the current data pricing system is flawed, and any change could be viewed as a step in the right direction. And with the DataPro plan, the metered overage charges will greatly help reduce bill shock. However, there still needs to be more customization, choices, and flexibility for consumers to pick a plan that fits their needs. If we compare the plethora of creative prepaid plan options out there, I feel that carriers should be able to come up with new and innovative data pricing structures to meet all of its customers' needs.
And lastly, AT&T finally is allowing tethering on the iPhone and its other smartphones. Not a big surprise, as other carriers allow this practice, but my issue with it is that AT&T is charging you again for the same data connection. For the privilege of tethering a smartphone, not even for any additional data capacity, you get to pay $20 a month. But, it is common for carrier to charge for this service, so I feel it's not as big of a deal as the drastic data plan changes.
For a full rundown, here is AT&T's press release for the new data plans:http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=4800&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=30854