How to lose a loyal customer: Exhibit AT&T

AT&T recently installed fiber optic in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods and offered most of my neighbors gigabit internet service for $45 per month.

They sent two sales reps to my door to sell me the new service, only to discover that it wasn’t available at my address.

So, AT&T lost a 13 year customer. The cancellation conversation went something like this:

AT&T Rep: “We can upgrade you from 75 Mps to 100 Mps for $50 per month, which will save you about $20.”

Me: “So, you are offering me 1/10th what you offer my neighbors for $5/month more when you competitor is offering 5x that? Does that sound like a good deal to you?”

AT&T Rep: “No sir. I see what you’re saying.”

I’ve been pleased with my AT&T service for 13 years. I never complained or threatened to cancel to try to get a better deal as lots of folks do. It was doing the job. I never noticed issues with buffering or speeds, even as the number of devices connected to the net in my household has grown.

But, they shifted the goalposts by offering a product that appears to be 10x better than what they give me at a lower price to my neighbors, which suddenly shifted the paradigm on the service they give me to look like mush.

It added fuel to fire when the sales reps assured me that it was ‘very rare’ for them to skip houses and that it was usually just a matter of ‘getting their computers updated’ or ‘having someone come out and run the lines’. They made it sound easy. They gave me some hope that it was still coming.

Then, when I followed up with customer service, as one of the sales folks suggested I do, I was told that there were no plans to make it available. That seemed strange to me since the AT&T boxes sit one lot away from our block in the middle of a neighborhood that now has fiber.

One benefit that I got out of the experience is to be less hesitant to evaluate my options and switch. I discovered that switching was much easier than staying and trying to convince them to give me the service that they had two people try to sell me.

That’s the beauty of the power of exit versus the power of voice and a good example of why competition is a good thing. I wish their were even more competitors for internet service. I’m looking forward to more wireless competitors popping up with 5G and satellites.

Here’s how I ended my cancellation conversation: “If you ever want to win my business back, it’s pretty simple. Give me what you can give my neighbors.”

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