Social Lip Service vs Social Customer Service: AT&T Wireless Case Study

at&t social media case study Many organizations claim to “be social.”

They claim they have social media integrated with sales, marketing, and even customer service.

They may even tout that their customer service teams are using Twitter to communicate and help customers.

The real question is… are they providing social lip service or social customer service?

Social Lip Service: 
The company assigned tweeter pretends to want to solve my problem. They reply quickly to my tweet. However, they rarely do more than point me back to a customer service department via 1-800 phone number that I probably already spent 2 hours working with.

Social Customer Service:
The key difference is that the assigned tweeter sees my problem through to resolution even if it takes more than one day! They provide relevant value in taking my time to read, respond and act on the suggestions they recommend.


The problem:

A couple weeks ago I attempted to upgrade my iPhone on the AT&T Wireless Premier Business website. It still shocks me how companies as big and powerful as AT&T can still have such a terrible user experience on their own website. However, I digress and that's not the point of this post, although it is very much a part of it.

I was unable to upgrade my iPhone on the AT&T business website using my account. For some reason the iPhone 4G didn't appear as an option for upgrade.

Social customer (me) tweets opinion

It was after 10 pm et and I was of course multi-tasking tweeting, watching the news & trying to take care of my dying iPhone 3G.

I sent one tweet to politely vent in 140 characters that I wasn't having fun on the AT&T premier site. I got a few responses with others stating their same frustration. I didn't encourage the conversation to go into a bashing of AT&T because that's not how I roll.

Here's the fun part…


AT&T customer service responds via Twitter:

The next day I woke up to a friendly tweet from the assigned AT&T customer service tweeter. The tweeter had a real face on the Twitter avatar, though I don't know if that's who was really responding. Not sure if they have numerous customer service representatives who tweet from the twitter account and assign to customer service as necessary?

I saw the tweet and replied. The AT&T tweeter asked me to follow her so she could provide me directions.

She immediately sent me a DM offering to help. She asked for my email address and phone number.


Social customer (me) doubts AT&T's ability & commitment to solve problem

I pretty much laughed it off. I had dealt with Verizon on issues with their FIOS performance and never received more than a push back to their 1-800 line which I had unfortunately had already spent the morning on with no resolution.

However, the AT&T tweeter had such a friendly, smiling face I thought “what the heck, I'll give this a try.”


AT&T solves my problem!

The AT&T tweeter sent me a couple DMs and an email even though I had not yet responded back to her.  It was a very busy week for me as we were out of town negotiating some major business deals.

Several days passed and she was still following up.

By the end of the week I had an email and a DM stating my problem was solved! Even better she left a voice mail on business phone stating the same thing.

I thought “Yowza! Are you serious, my problem is solved and I didn't have to call the 1-800 number and be transferred to 3 more people, hung up on twice & still not get a resolution?”

I couldn't believe it! I logged into the AT&T premier business website and you guessed it… it was fixed. I could now upgrade my iPhone immediately. Problem sovled!

Thank you AT&T!


What did AT&T Wireless do right?

1. They were doing social listening (they knew about my tweet)

2. They had a policy for how to respond.

3. They responded in a timely manner.

4. They were genuine in their communication.

5. They were consistent even though I got busy & didn't respond back to them in a timely manner.

6. They followed through on what they said they would do.

7. They resolved the issue.

8. They respected my time. I didn't have to do anything besides reply to a DM with my cell phone number and email address.

9. They provided value to me as a customer during a very hectic and busy week.

10. They inspired me enough to write this post about their excellent social customer service.

11. They kept me as a customer.


Why has the social customer service bar been set so low?

If you really think about this scenario it is quite disappointing.  It is unfortunate that we are accustomed to terrible quality of customer service from most companies. The fact that I am ecstatic about a quick response to a problem stopping me from spending $400 with a company is sad.

There is tremendous opportunties for organizations to raise the bar in their level of customer service and customer satisfaction by properly implementing and integrating social media into their business. Responding via Twitter telling customers to call the 1-800 which takes me to the same broken customer service department that I started with is not a solution. Such a scenario only makes it worse and more frustrating for the customer.

Organizations must take the time to look at the end to end process and how you can leverage communication mediums such as Twitter to drive efficiencies and improve key performance metrics. There are no more excuses. Sending a tweet as a band-aid to a broken customer service department is only going to highlight your core issues. Take the time to do it right and you just might wind up with a blog post written just like this one!

Don't do social. Be social!

Don't just do social media. Be a social business!  I am a social customer. If you want to communicate with me on the social turf then you need to behave like a social business! Your chosen method and quality of response on the social networks has immediate and lasting impact to your company reputation, brand and bottom line.


Your Turn:

Do you know a business that is successfully integrating or has integrated social media into the DNA of their customer service? What are they doing right?  Have you had negative experiences as well? What happened? What recommendations do you have for organizations to improve customer relations by leveraging social media?

See original post on Pam Marketing Nut blog 


About the Author:

*Forbes Top 10 Social Media Women, Forbes top 10 Social Media Power Influencer - CEO / founder of Marketing Nutz, full service social brand, digital marketing agency. Keynote speaker, author, strategist, consultant, coach, & trainer. Helps businesses of all sizes integrate social media into the DNA of their business, connect with target audiences to nurture authentic customer relationships. 15+ years experience working with Fortune 500, Franchised corporations with 4000+ local franchises to entrepreneurs and startups!


  1. kathikruse July 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    This is so good to hear, Pam!  Could it be that AT&T is beginning to respect and listen to their customers? I dare to dream. Thanks for sharing this great story.

  2. MarieRoseSauce July 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Great story, Pam! I recently had a rough customer service experience with Sky, my phone and broadband provider in the UK, which I blogged about for conversocial . Sky took over 7 weeks to finally come and install my Internet, but the people in the call centers refused to help me. It wasn’t until I tweeted at skyhelpteam  that I received any real assistance with the problem. It really shows how important social customer service is; sometimes it’s the only on place to get your voice heard – and to get it heard publicly! In fact, in my case and yours it seems that social media was the most productive way for us to get the customer service we needed.

  3. Jason Spencer August 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    You know, Pam, I am an AT&T Enterprise customer by accident.  I say that because, while I typically use my phone for my own business, I am a regular Joe.  I happen to have a discount code that puts me in their Enterprise section.  I do know that my phone call with them this morning was pretty nice, and almost didn’t seem very Tier 1 — even if my solution was to do a hard reboot, and I should have thought of that myself.  🙂 However, I have had a mixed bag with Comcast’s Service.  I barked one day, on Twitter, about how long it was taking to upgrade my service to their Triple Play.  Within the hour, I had a personal Comcast team that works out of Sacramento, CA connecting with me and DMing some details.  Ultimately, we were in a phone call to remedy the situation.  The only problem was that it never really solved itself, and the service guys seemed to be communicating something that all other support didn’t see on their screens. I’m at it again, piping off about some issues with both TV and Internet being down several times over the last few days for “upgrades” in the service.  Why these are down in the middle of the day without warning is beyond me. However, I wouldn’t have stumbled onto this post otherwise.  I jumped on Twitter and was going to share how AT&T is raking in my wireless data this month thanks to my issues with Comcast.  Great post, and a great story. Like you, I can’t stand horrible customer service.  I don’t care if you are a big corporation, the local McDonald’s, a credit union, or anyone else: Understand and interact with your customers through every channel possible.

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