Complaint management the AT&T way: Cease-and-desist

4th Jun 2010

AT&T has been forced to apologise to a customer that it threatened with legal action for sending its chief executive two complaint emails over the course of two weeks.

Giorgio Galante, a New York-based customer of the telco and iPhone owner since 2008, received a voicemail warning from ‘Brent’, a member of the firm’s Executive Response Team, to say that he would receive a cease-and-desist letter unless he stopped emailing Randall Stephenson directly.

A cease-and-desist letter is a legal tactic under which one party sends another a letter formally warning them not to repeat a certain action. If the terms of the request are violated, the offending party can face criminal and civil charges under US law.

Galante’s first email to Stephenson was a polite request to bring forward his iPhone eligibility date so that he could get hold of a 4G version of the device closer to its launch. He also asked AT&T to enable tethering on the machine.

His second email, meanwhile, outlined his displeasure at the telco’s new pricing plans, which among other things ended unlimited data transfer.

"Please don’t have one of your $12/hr ‘Executive Relations’ college students call me – I’ve found them to be generally poorly informed ([blogging web site] readers know more than they do about AT&T) and they have little authority to do anything sensible," Galante said in a portion of the message.

He posted the email, along with the offending voicemail, on his blog ‘So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish’, which he began on Wednesday after receiving the message.

But yesterday AT&T apologised for the blunder, claiming that the customer service agent in question was not having a good day and had misread the firm’s policy.

It said: "We are apologising to our customer. We’re working with him today to address his questions and concerns. This is not the way we want to treat customers. From Facebook to significant customer service channels, AT&T strives to provide our customers with easy ways to have their questions addressed."

As a result of the incident, it was reviewing its entire customer service processes to ensure that such a scenario would not happen again, the company added.

Although Galante has accepted AT&T’s apology, he has decided to take his business elsewhere and plans to switch to Sprint’s new HTC Evo phone with immediate effect.

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