Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is "Customer Service," Marketing?


So this is hardly a new topic but I thought I’d throw my two cents in there after an experience at an AT&T store the other day.

I was in need of a new phone but I had been avoiding going to AT&T because I wasn’t sure if I was eligible for an upgrade and didn’t want to pay full price for a phone. I was avoiding the store because I didn’t want to have a fight about being an AT&T customer for the better part of 12 years and why couldn’t they give me the promotional price for a new BlackBerry Torch.

I was avoiding the store to AVOID customer service.

However being at my wits end with my failing phone, I put my head down and headed in. Fortunately I was eligible for an upgrade and actually had a very good customer experience.

The same can’t be said for the lady next to me however. This poor woman was from another state visiting a sick relative in the hospital. Her phone died and being unable to fix it and having no contact with home she came into the store. The staff at the store was also unable to fix it and said she would need a new phone but she was two months and a day away from being eligible for an upgrade and thus would have to pay full price ($220) to replace her phone.

As my lovely sales agent was getting me all set with my new phone I stood there and listened to this woman exasperated deal with two sales agents and one customer service representative on the phone to lobby to be granted an exclusion to get a new phone. Ultimately she was given a new phone with a new contract but what it took to get there seems preposterous.

I went into the AT&T store fully ready to take my business to Verizon and although I left moderately pleased, I still left with an overall negative impression.

Folks. Customer service IS your brand.

Is “customer service,” marketing? You’re damn right it is.

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