Commentary Tech

Lies, damn lies, and AT&T reps

Why do they lie?This comment by a FB friend on my post about leaving AT&T made me think. That wasn’t the first time I heard lies from AT&T reps, especially retention reps. If I have to guess, the basic explanation of why this happens is pretty obvious. (Warning: complete speculation forthcoming).

Retention reps are paid to retain customers.

They are probably given at-risk pay, as in “minimum wage plus bonuses to make a less-bad salary if you retain X customers/time period” and/or are fired if they don’t meet a certain quota.

They are probably also given some kind of “ethics training”, (at a guess) online and using a slide deck you click through in terminal boredom  that says “lying is bad, mmmkay”. They can probably be fired if someone reviews the call, notices the lie, and… if the lie doesn’t result in a retention.

Because a blatant lie that results in a retention is unlikely to be reviewed. The customer’s happy, the rep’s happy, and the company’s happy. Who’s wasting time reviewing that? Even if it is, it’s probably given a lot of parsing/wiggle room.

One of geekdom's favorite Futurama lines
One of geekdom’s favorite Futurama lines

The most spectacular lie from an AT&T rep ever was when I tried to cancel my UVerse service. I liked it, but Comcast offered me faster service for less money (I’m noticing a trend here). FWIW, Comcast’s reps suck, too, but at least the service has been solid.

Anyway. I called AT&T to cancel Uverse. Got predictably shunted to retentions. Explained the situation. The rep was understanding, sympathetic, and we agreed there was nothing they could offer that would make me stay. Account closed.

Then I got an email stating that they were giving me a promotional rate in return for agreeing to a two-year contract extension with an ETF.

I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry at a single email.

Fortunately, the rep that took my very irate next call canceled the account immediately, and there was no mention of an ETF. No one ever apologized for the lies, though.