AT&T and Apple: Birds of a Feather

Apple ATTApple is as open as a Soviet Gulag, AT&T is acting as if customers had no other option than to accept whatever they're offered.

AT&T and Apple: birds of a feather

Both companies tell us exactly what we want and what we don't want. The gap in perception, the reason why Apple is by and large loved and AT&T is universally despised rests with execution.

You probably heard about or read the story of the cease and desist message sent by AT&T to a customer who had emailed AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson with feedback repeatedly. Run a search and you will find plenty of reports. The company later apologized

This in and of itself, although quite rude and shortsighted, would not be the first or last time that a CEO who allows a team to speak for him with customers gets mixed results. The apology probably came after all the media attention, too. However, AT&T has failed customers in a more serious manner.

It has failed in the execution and testing of security protocols, the lack of which put customer information at risk. First it disclosed iPad owners email addresses and it did nothing to patch the issue when it learned about it, then the company site took customers to the account of another person when trying to pre-order the iPhone4.

Chief Executives Officers are where the buck stops. I get that the ability to hire well and delegate is key. Given the systemic break downs, it would probably be a good idea to get more involved in the day to day business on behalf of customers. Who's looking out for customers at AT&T?

According to the AT&T insider quoted by Gizmodo, a major software update was not tested, and a major power outage over the weekend impacted all ordering systems. Customers are still sending in reports of security breaches, yet still no statement from AT&T.

Although it was just a few years ago that Apple broke a little girl's heart, Apple implemented a patch for the iPad breach and apologized to customers for the iPhone4 pre-order problems.

Execution matters

This means that a roll out needs to be engineered and facilitated to work as planned. More thought needs to be put in the forecast to stage a better experience. While I don't think anyone underestimated that iPhone4 pre-orders would create a spike in usage, why cut it so close without proper testing?

Was it a good idea for AT&T to upgrade a system for the first time the same weekend Web usage and account logins would go up? Furthermore, is it a good idea to give customers the impression that their information being at risk is not a big deal by ignoring the earlier iPad breach and providing no communications about the current situation?

See for yourself in the reports Gizmodo is including in their post. Check out the creative work in the comments as well — your world delivered to everyone, indeed. 

If there is one Chief Executive Officer who is very involved with the company product that CEO is Steve Jobs. He loves what he does, he puts everything he's got into the product, its presentation to the world, and the story the products creates for customers.

That love is felt, regardless of whether you think Apple products execute on functions already known or talked about before. Connecting the dots in execution matters, after all.


While both AT&T and Apple have closed cultures, AT&T has been providing a very rocky experience for customers. Dropped calls and inconsistent service being the tip of the iceberg — AT&T is not enabling customers. In fact, the company seems to dislike customers, it sees us just as a profit center to "lock in".

Apple's story is different. And so far the company has managed to escape being lumped in with the phone carrier because of it. The company legendary control over and lack of communications has gotten better a little recently with one-line emails.

With the iPhone, Apple changed the game for the mobile industry, and it will do so again. As a company keen on delivering an experience through product execution, Apple will — it should — expect better performance from someone associated with them.

Lest the poor reputation of a brand unwilling to step up to the plate — to, in Jobs' words, stay hungry — drag it down in the eyes, hearts, and wallets, of customers. 

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0 responses to “AT&T and Apple: Birds of a Feather”

  1. A very timely post for me, Valeria …
    I held off buying an iPhone for a year because of Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T. I’m an Apple fangirl of longstanding, but have hated AT&T for decades. The only customer service call that ever left me in tears was with AT&T — and you can’t even describe that as customer service. I could write BOOKS about my incredibly poor customer experience with AT&T. I have nothing good to say about AT&T and seriously doubt I ever will.
    Fast forward and now I’ve been putting off ditching my iPhone. I’m thinking of buying an iPad w/ wifi for Web surfing and switching to another phone carrier. That grieves me, because other than the lousy signal and dropped calls, I love the iPhone.
    Oh, Apple. How could you have betrayed me so?

  2. AT&T has done some pretty dicey things in the past. I needed to buy a new SIM card, but there was no AT&T store within an hour of me. So after talking to an AT&T representative, she assured me that Best Buy would supply me with a reasonably priced SIM card, $5 – $10 at the most.
    So I, desperate for a working iPhone, went and purchased a SIM for $30. Best Buy said AT&T would reimburse because they provide SIMs for free. Alas, no deal. AT&T told me I was out of luck.
    All in all I still had a phone that did not work, and went to the Apple store for another phone altogether. I told them my story and suprisingly, Apple took $30 off the purchase of a refurbished iPhone, despite the fact that SIMs are not their responsibility.
    AT&T dropped the ball, and Apple came through for me. If I could have my wonderful iPhone without the AT&T service, it would be wonderful.

  3. @Connie – many feel your pain, I think. After giving up long distance with AT&T at home, and discontinuing the calling cards when the taxes got ridiculously high for the value, I thought I was not going to be with AT&T anymore. In fact, I was a happy Cingular customer… then AT&T bought them! In the horror and shock the one benefit was that I could buy an iPhone. Apple will open up to other carriers. The only issue I have with others is that they don’t have international compatibility/networks. Then again, I could buy a phone in Europe and pay as I go when I’m there — simpler.
    @Anne – it’s unfortunate that there would be a culture that discourages ownership of the customer issue until it’s resolved at a company that should call itself lucky to have such a large customer base. Your story saddens me for the missed opportunity by AT&T. There are unconfirmed rumors that Apple might be looking to offer the iPhone through Verizon. It’s no consolation to me since I’ve had poor experiences with Verizon. Many have found them to be more customer-friendly.

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