How Good Marketing Can Create Bad Customer Service

March 15, 2012
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Jayme Soulati

Jayme Soulati

Our guest post author for this installment of the Customer Service Stories series is Jayme Soulati, President of Soulati Media, Inc. Soulati Media delivers business-to-business social media marketing with public relations. For more Jayme, check out her hard-hitting blog at

Also, please keep an eye out for our great video interview with Jayme in the near future.

GUEST POST DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions and positions expressed by guest post authors on this site are those of the author alone and do not represent those of IntenseFence Management Solutions or any employee thereof. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this post have not been verified and are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. 

The beauty of social media is the opportunity for large corporations to learn from their front-line and marketing mistakes. This story is true, just happened, and provides me the chance to put it in the blogosphere for others’ awareness.

U-Verse is a product AT&T has been touting for more than a year in my neighborhood. Both my neighbors on either side of me have it, so I wanted it, too, for faster internet connection. I was an existing customer with AT&T wanting to buy other services from AT&T. It doesn’t get any better when an existing customer wants to upsell herself services. Here’s what happened instead:

  • I attempted to find a phone number on the AT&T website. After two minutes of searching and expletives, I did.
  • The website touted U-Verse everywhere, and I was anticipating more work efficiency because my Wi-Fi connection was malfunctioning. Sadly, the representative I reached said the higher-speed U-verse was not available in my market; I asked for clarification and to speak with a manager.
  • She took my name and number for her manager to phone me back; alas, no manager has ever attempted to reach me (this was two+ weeks ago). The customer rep turned me over to the technician to help me with my slow Wi-Fi. He was wonderful and got me working again. When I received a customer satisfaction survey, I gave him high scores.
  • Afterwards, he transferred me back to another representative to see if he could sell me U-verse. That rep also told me it wasn’t available, and I should call back in three to five days.

That’s when I lost my patience and said:

  • You are marketing U-verse in my neighborhood with direct mail, phone calls and now that I’m ready to buy, you’re saying it’s not available? (He said that all the connectors/hook ups/plugs or whatever were taken, and there was no more capacity.)
  • Then I asked what the difference between today and three days in the future was? Would that mean I could get the product I want in three days but not today? (He couldn’t answer because that was off script.)
  • Then he asked me to call back in three days. I said, “Wait a minute. I’m a customer; I want to buy something from you and you’re asking me to call back? Do you realize how inconvenient it is to phone AT&T and sit on hold waiting for customer service? Why can’t you schedule a call yourself to reach me at 10 a.m. Tuesday?”  (He said he would do that; that was two+ weeks ago and I’ve never had a return phone call.)

So, let’s review AT&T and its customer-facing experience:

  1. I could not locate a phone number on the AT&T website to make a purchase.
  2. I attempted to use live-chat, but after waiting more than four minutes, I shut that down.
  3. AT&T’s best new service is being marketed like crazy, and it’s not available in my neighborhood in spite of both my neighbors having it.
  4. The manager I asked to phone me never did.
  5. The customer service rep couldn’t answer my questions about what difference three days makes in getting service (because it was off script).
  6. That same customer service rep never called me back to sell me a product. I was a hot customer; in fact, I was ready to buy a major bundle of services but the frontline customer service team let that hot sale slip through their fingers.
How Good Marketing Can Create Bad Customer Service | Lady Looking At Phone

So many aspects of this customer experience failed on so many levels that I’m extremely disgusted. Like a bank, telephone services are challenging to change. Instead of experiencing the hassle to switch, customers complain and stay the course.

What’s changed?

Social media now allows more stories like this to see the light of day. Perhaps AT&T will see this story; perhaps not. But through the Internet and social media, this story’s reach will be exponentially greater than at any time before.

Companies need to market services they can provide. They need to train customer service representatives to respond when consumers ask a smart question. They need to train managers and reps to return phone calls to customers when they’re asking for a phone call. Lastly, companies just need to care.

16 thoughts on “How Good Marketing Can Create Bad Customer Service”

    1. When we have to engage with these big-box service providers (like homeowners insurance), we learn that what’s behind curtain #1 doesn’t match what’s behind curtain #3. It’s so frustrating.

      And, guess what? It’s the companies themselves touting the faster, better, cheaper model we all want that doesn’t really exist.

  1. Sumbich, the first mistake you made was not tapping into your neighbors high speed wi-fi so you could get it for free…..

    De-regulation was supposed to be good, right? Why do we still have these 300 lb gorillas out there who don’t care whether you like them or not or have a good experience. Hello? Where did all the common sense go?

    Even if it was not available after touting that it was; there are probably about 5 contact points in your whole encounter with them that gave them the opportunity to turn a bad situation into at least a tolerable one. Instead, they just kept piling on………’s shameful and sad.

    Great post and I just want you to know getting this launched for today was Adam’s excuse to only have one drink last night. I can’t believe they made me drink the other 17…………:)

    1. Dude. I know you’re this funny in person. LOL. What I want to know is where the heck is my video, Adam? I thought you were launching these together? hahahaha. Teasing.

      AGREE!!! Back in the day, my PR professor was working on his doctorate and he had we undergrads do all the research for the Ma Bell divestiture to MCI. That was a really long time ago.

      I’m happy ATT couldn’t purchase T-Mobile (that was the deal, right?). We don’t need telecoms to do what the airlines are doing, but it’s happening anyway.

    2. Good point. There were a lot of contact points along the way that were opportunities.

      And the real story, Jayme, is that Bill kept taking my drinks…

  2. I already posted my U-verse nightmare (nice features, abominable phone support/service); and you’re right on the switching penalties. Every once in a while I consider switching domain host, bank, other service providers… but then doubt the devil I don’t know will do any better.

    This is a Communications 101 breakdown; not everyone has the same training, is on the same page – nor empowered to go off script. It’s absurd your neighbors have a service you can’t get. What’s worse is that 1) they keep trying to sell it to you (when if you can’t get it, they shouldn’t be targeting you with their marketing) and 2) then not, because as you say they’ve ignored a hot prospect and should be keeping you in the loop, letting you know the second you can get it. Shame, FWIW.

  3. So great seeing you here!! I went to your blog and thought…what’s up? These experiences are so not isolated. What’s going to happen? A revolt? So much negative online reputation the company finally caves and cares?

    WTF? I’m so exhausted from all this time waste; it makes me crazy, really.

    Great seeing you, Davina! See you in April, right?

    1. I’ve been lurking about here and there.. and yes, April. Look forward to it.

      IIRC you both you and Adam commented on my U-verse post a few months back. It is exhausting but this constant stream of bad stories makes me think of another post, the idea of ‘marketing proof.’ In this case cable/internet companies are all known for notoriously bad service, but it doesn’t matter about competition, online reputation.. we’re still ‘stuck’ with one of them. Crazy making indeed. FWIW.

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  5. Hey look – It’s Jayme! Howdy, friend. 🙂

    I hate that you went through that. We actually have U-Verse and have had it for awhile. But, it was WAY before they were promoting it. In fact, we didn’t even know about it at the time. They actually had someone going door-to-door in our neighborhood to let us know that it was available. My husband met with the rep and we decided to switch.

    At the time, we asked why we hadn’t heard about the service. The rep said they weren’t doing mass marketing because it was only available in certain areas. It turns out that when they install a new station/box or whatever they call it, it can only reach a certain radius. So, they were rolling it out one neighborhood at a time.

    That made total sense to me then. I guess they have deviated from that plan. I can see why – it’s way easier to send mailers or run ads instead of sending someone door-to-door. But, clearly as your story indicates, that wasn’t a smart choice. There’s definitely a good lesson here.

    1. Look at that…everyone has had an experience of some sort with this service. I’m not sure how the marketing is so disconnected with the technology. That’s such a fail, and I’m seeing it coming strong with the new 4G network AT&T is touting, too.

      I expect mega failures with service there; what happens in urban cities does not translate to small metro regions. Imagine the advertising dollars to cipher through ads by population and service, but I think that’s what’s needed.

      Thanks, Laura!

  6. So AT&T kept you on the line as long as they could to keep pumping a service they already knew you couldn’t get. I bet you got an “Is there anything else they could help you with, ma’am?” at the end, too. That one always gets me.


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