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AT&T says sorry to customer who e-mailed CEO

A customer who twice e-mailed AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is threatened with a cease and desist letter. Then the company decides that may not have been a good idea.

This e-mailing CEOs thing is getting a little out of hand.

Apple customers seem to be in a permanent e-mailing competition to see who can get a reply out of CEO Steve Jobs. Virtual bonus currency is, apparently, earned if you get more than three of Jobs' words.

Perhaps it was this fine trend that stimulated Giorgio Galante to e-mail AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. No, Galante was not steaming about dropped calls on his iPhone. Nor was he desperate to see the last of a strangely-dressed Luke Wilson in AT&T commercials.

No, according to Engadget, Galante first e-mailed Stephenson to advance his iPhone eligibility date and to request an option for tethering. This didn't seem all that threatening. Next, he did offer something of a peeved missive aimed at AT&T's new rates for unlimited data plans.

Stephenson didn't reply. However, an AT&T representative did. And his reply was not all that galante. Indeed, "Brent," as he appeared to be called, seems to have all the corporate subtlety of David Brent. He reportedly suggested that unless Galante walked away from his keyboard and put down his need to communicate with AT&T's CEO, he would be visited by a cease and desist letter.

CC Foxtongue/Flickr

This might seem a curious way to encourage one's customers to rethink possible. It might, instead, encourage them to rethink Sprint or Verizon.

However, it seems that AT&T has now done some rethinking of its own. Engadget has received word that an AT&T VP sent Galante (who lay, no doubt, in a locked cupboard, fearing the entry of men with a visible grudge) a deep apology. Galante was reportedly told that the individual responsible for the friendly call "was not having the best of days today."

An official AT&T statement declared: "Because of this incident, we are reviewing our entire process to ensure a situation like this does not happen again."

Customer service is a very difficult thing. But what kind of process might have led to someone going out of his way to call a customer to threaten him with a cease and desist letter? Surely it is easier to ignore e-mails than to threaten their senders.

Why did "Brent" pick on Galante's e-mails? The company reportedly suggested that "Brent" hadn't quite grasped internal policy. But what kind of internal policy suggests that employees should call customers and threaten them?

And what would have happened if the call had been dropped halfway through a line like "and if you don't stop sending these e-mails we're going to..."? It doesn't bear rethinking about.