Updated 12/5 1817 PST: Happy resolution, read on through below!
Back in September, my wife and I came to the end of our existing AT&T Wireless (now “Cingular Blue”) contract. We’d been seeing increasing problems with our service, so we decided to talk to Cingular about upgrading to a native Cingular (“Cingular Orange”) account, but we were hesitant to do so; we’d been faithful customers with AT&T for many years and had a resultingly sweet rate plan. It was so sweet, in fact, at one point a Cingular rep had told us that she’d never seen a plan that good and that we should resist switching for as long as possible.
So, after a couple of hours on the phone, and the involvement of the Customer Loyalty department, I scored what was going to be a great deal:
- Voice service with a decent amount of minutes — not the ungodly amount we’d had under AT&T, but more than enough to cover even our highest level of traffic in our previous 24 months (and that’s before accounting for the fact that the vast majority of our use is mobile-to-mobile, which is never charged).
- A new Cingular 8125 Windows Mobile PocketPC for my wife, at the sweet price of $150. Actually, at the full price of $350 plus immediate credits to our account of $200.
- A new free phone for me, so I could get the Cingular Orange SIM card to put in my Qtek 9100 and continue using my Windows Mobile device.
- Data coverage for both my wife and I with a plan that gave the same features and benefits to our mobile devices as I had under AT&t, and all for the continued low price of $19.95/line for all-you-can-eat data ($5/month better than the AT&T rate).
The third point was the big sticker: by default, Cingular’s all-you-can-eat plan for the PocketPC is either $44.95 or $59.95/line, depending on which group you talk to (they disagree on which plan you need). Accordingly, since Customer Loyalty said so, they agreed to give us the appropriate monthly credit so that we ended up paying $19.95 for the lifetime (24 months) of our new contract.
So far, that’s not happened. I’ve spent over six hours on the phone cumulative since September; my wife has spent at least another 12. Every time we’ve talked to Cingular, the reps have bounced us around until we found somebody who sounded like they knew what they were talking about. Every time, this person would read the impressively growing log of notes on our account and agree that they would Do The Right Thing and honor their agreement with us to give us the right data plan at an effective price of $19.95/line. And every time, they’ve been unable to get the system to accept it:
- We’ve been told five times now that the previous rep signed us up for the wrong data plan.
- We’ve been told at least three times now that the suggested plan was no longer offered — one time within minutes of being told that was the correct plan.
- We’ve been told that the Cingular billing system has no provision for a recurring monthly credit, so that they would have to enter a single mongo credit.
- Weeks later, we were told the system won’t accept that large of a credit and that requests were being made to get it done.
- Weeks later, after multiple requests, we are now being told that the best we will get is a credit for one year — not the two years that has been agreed to since September.
Now, this evening, Cingular has told us that they will give us the one year — take it or leave it. If we don’t like it, then we’re free to find a new carrier. Moral: avoid Cingular as a carrier. They seem unable to present a single, consistent set of offerings for their customers. Trying to find out what plans and features you need is so confusing not even the reps can get it right, and they are unwilling to live up to their promises.
Update: Edited to reflect the fact that not only did Cingular offer to match AT&T’s all-you-can-eat data price ($24.95), they offered to beat it by $5. Thanks, Steph, for reminding me.
Updated 12/5 1820 PST: I finally called up Cingular and got connected to Customer Service, and talked to some very nice young man I immediately felt sorry for. He was doing his best to follow the saga, but was clearly not able to resolve things to my satisfaction, but kept gamely trying to do so. I finally mentioned the fact that I blog and had already posted the story thus far, and suddenly he was placing me on hold. When he came back, I was talking to Tyler Crews, who over the next while (close to an hour, I believe) sat and patiently talked to me and got the details of the story figured out. Tyler was able to do the following:
- Find the correct plan that we needed to be on — a $44.99/line plan.
- Settle on a price of $25/line — the old AT&T price, effectively, for the service, netting a $20/line/month discount.
- Figure out the correct credit to apply to our account to adjust it properly from September through the last bill.
- Apply the recurring discount so that each future bill would automatically show the effective price of $25/line.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Tyler saved me as a customer. Up until yesterday and today, we’ve had pretty good experiences with the Cingular support people. Almost all of them have gone out of their way, as did Tyler, to help us get to the bottom of things and figure out the facts of the situation. There were only a couple of people — usually managers who made off-line decisions without ever talking to us personally — who seemed to not care about getting things done correctly, but they were the clear minority. While I was happy to talk to Tyler, I’m sad that it took a snafu this entrenched to put me in touch with him, because he was able to cut through the crud and get things fixed.
Cingular, get more people like Tyler, give them the power they need to do their jobs, and stand back. You’ll have happy customers as a result. If they make suggestions or pass on feedback on how to simplify the billing and customer support experience, figure out how to make them work. Tyler represents your best asset, because he was able to deftly balance my concerns and your business needs and come up with a solution that didn’t put too much undue work on anyone. He gave me the numbers I needed to verify the discounts and credits myself so that we were on the same page as to exactly what effect I’d see on my bills. In short, he was a hero.
I’ll be watching my next bill closely to make sure everything works out the way I expect, but for the first time since September I actually have the hope that will happen. Thanks, Tyler.