My last AT&T Wireless bill contained the following paragraph, in capital letters (as a side note, my last two AT&T Wireless bills have been for “-$0.00”. This is certainly a welcome change from them overcharging me for the previous four months):
IF YOU HAVE CALLED CUSTOMER SERVICE RECENTLY, YOU MAY HAVE SPENT A LONG TIME ON HOLD. THIS PROBLEM HAS BEEN CAUSED BY AN EXTREMELY HIGH VOLUME OF CALLS, BUT THAT IS NO EXCUSE. THIS SITUATION IS AS UNACCEPTABLE TO US AS IT IS TO YOU. WE APPRECIATE YOUR CONTINUED PATIENCE AND SUPPORT. REST ASSURED THAT WE ARE WORKING AS HARD AS WE CAN TO REDUCE HOLD TIMES WHEN YOU CALL CUSTOMER SERVICE. YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE PROGRESS DAILY.
My first thought was to wonder why they needed to wonder if I’d called customer service recently. After all, the first thing they do when you call (the second thing is to put you on hold for a minimum of half an hour) is to ask for your wireless number. So they know if I’ve called. They know exactly how long I was on hold for. They know how often I called, and whether I got so frustrated that I hung up. So why bother with the “if you have called” bit? In fact, if the person hasn’t called, they may not be aware that your customer service sucks, and you may not want to tell them.
My second thought was that I have called recently, and I have spent a long time on hold. Frequently. I’m exactly the customer who, if you wanted to target a selective apology message, would receive it. But if they wrote the message, even though it was only going out to a few customers, as if everyone was getting it, it makes the company look better, since it seems like they are being magnanimous enough to apologize to everyone. This appeased my inner cynic, at least.
My third thought was to remember a story Guy Kawasaki tells in one of his books—either The Macintosh Way or Selling The Dream, because those are the only two I’ve read—about how, when he ran ACIUS, he would send expensive gifts (e.g., ACIUS T-Shirts and coffee mugs) to his competitors’ executives, with a generic “Dear Customer” cover letter. The idea was to convey the impression that all customers were getting these items.
My fourth thought was that I hadn’t written in my weblog in a while.