I'm going to post the letter detailing my complaint to AT&T's CEO. Enjoy.
My wife and I were AT&T customers for a long time. Initially we were happy customers of Cingular, then became AT&T members when they bought out Cingular. We completed our contract time requirements in November of 2010, and decided to close our account on January 20, 2011. That was the last dealings either of us had with your company until April 26, 2011 at 8:53AM. At that time we received an automated email stating that we had a past due balance of $5.25 and since it had been past due for so long, it was going to be sent to a collection agency.
In a hurry, I called AT&T Customer Support number provided in the email (800-947-5096). I was connected to a technician named Tracy. After pulling up my account, she informed me that I had a balance of $5.25 and that it was for charges incurred in and around the end of December. I told her that I had cancelled my cell phone service on January 20, 2011, and she confirmed this date in referencing the record she was looking at.
I asked Tracy why I was notified of these charges some 4 months after they were incurred; why had I not been told about them when I cancelled my service at the end of January? It seems only fitting, to me, that when someone contacts an organization to cease all business practice with them, that one of the primary concerns of both parties would settling any debts. Especially debts that had been incurred nearly a month before the date of termination. I find it terribly difficult to believe that this $5.25 suddenly appeared in AT&T's records after January the 20th.
Tracy informed me that she couldn't credit my account the $5.25 because my account had been cancelled. When she told me this, I told her that I had no issue paying the balance. I had her look up the dates that the charges were made, and completely agree that any charges incurred before January 1 were undoubtedly mine. I told her I was completely willing to pay the balance but that my problem was that the email I received mentioned that my account was poised to be sent to a collections agency. My primary concern was the negative impact this would have on my credit score.
Tracy was kind enough to get someone in a manager position to speak with me. His name was Scott Cunningham, his direct supervisor, he said, was Gerald Lucas. After running through the short version of my issue at hand, Mr. Cunningham did some checking and told me that not only could the charges not be cancelled, they couldn't even be paid for through AT&T anymore because my contract was somehow locked out, and had already, as he put it, been "sold to a collection agency". I asked what my options were and he told me that I would have to deal with the collection agency directly to settle the debt. He then provided me with the agency's information, along with an account number (642581397) which he claimed would be the reference for my issue at the agency. Additionally, at my request, he gave me both his and his supervisor's full names along with a phone number (800-331-0500) he claimed would allow me to contact one of them. Finally, I asked him if our whole conversation had been recorded. When he confirmed that it was, I besought him to ensure it was not deleted, or otherwise misplaced.
The name of the agency he gave me was Alliance One Collection Agency, phone number, 1-800-279-3480. After calling them, I was transferred to a different agency which they claim handle all contracts from AT&T. This new Agency was called Professional Collection Consultants, phone number (800-632-4001). After speaking with Professional, they told me that neither my name, social security number, or the account number Mr. Cunningham provided, nor the other, different, account number referenced from an old billing statement (396441624), were anywhere in their databases. The credit agency suggested that I contact AT&T again to pay the bill.
Perhaps by this point, one can sense an individual's frustration. I called the number that Mr. Cunningham provided me. The number he insinuated was the best was to get in contact with either him or his supervisor. I was hoping not to have to explain my entire story to a new individual, but that's who I came to talk to, someone new. This man's name was Louis Rittenberry. Mr. Rittenberry is likely the only reason this information is coming to you in an upset letter instead of an irate phone call, or office visit. Mr. Rittenberry calmly listened to my predicament. I explained to him who I was trying to get in contact with, and he told me there were many offices around the country and he didn't know of any supervisors or senior supervisors with those names at the office I was now connected to.
Instead of transferring me, like I'm sure almost any of your other employees would have done, Mr. Rittenberry confidently said, he was going to investigate my issue and get a solution. Within 5 minutes, he had read the notes attached to my account, and worked whatever magic he could do and miraculously credited my account without issue. I even explained to him that I was completely willing to pay the full amount, immediately, over the phone, to which he replied that it was the least he could do to cancel it. He said how he could see that someone in my situation would have a "˜bad taste' in their mouth if they had the kind of experience I had and it was his job to make my customer experience was the best it could be. Before he hung up he apologized for any inconvenience and sent me an email statement showing that I was no long indebted to AT&T.
What happened today? Instead of one technician either accepting payment for or canceling a debt, I was put on hold for multiple intervals of up to 10 minutes at a time. Then I was led astray, sent on some wild goose-chase by someone who claimed they were in managerial position of some capacity. This I have little doubt of, providing, of course, his duty sector is a mail room. Indeed, the only thing that has saved any graciousness of opinion for your customer service department was Mr. Rittenberry. His calmness and efficiency were paramount. Said efficiency, competency even, were sorely lacking with all of the other individuals I spoke with today.
It is my sincere hope that this experience is not had by any other customers, especially any with less patience than I. I heartily suggest reviewing the call log of my conversation today with Mr. Cunningham, if, in fact, he saved it per my request. It would be an excellent training aid for some type of company training seminar about how to not deal with customer complaints. Conversely the entirely of my conversation with Mr. Rittenberry was the pinnacle of well done. I forgot to ask him, but I hope that conversation was recorded and saved as well. It would be invaluable in that same seminar. Training is an important point of my letter. It became rapidly apparent that multiple members of your company are not educated to the same degree in either your company policies or computer database software.
I would greatly appreciate a note of receipt from you. It would mend a lot of bridges to hear that an investigation will be performed so that something like this does not happen to anyone else.
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