It’s a common scenario. You’re having a problem with a company and call customer service. That's when the real aggravation begins.
You're placed on hold. You're transferred a half dozen times only to learn that no one can solve your problem. That's what happened to one Dallas grandmother, Ellie Ramirez.
Ramirez said didn't think her request was complicated. She simply wanted to cancel her service with her Internet provider.
Ramirez’s trouble started when she got an email in February from AT&T regarding her AT&T Dial Internet account. The email informs her that the monthly charge was going up from $12.95 to $17.95. The email also reads, “If you cancel your Dial account, you can still maintain your att.net email account."
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That shocked Ramirez. She has broadband, and hasn’t used dial-up for years. The only reason she's paid a monthly fee for dial-up service is because she wanted to keep her att.net email account.
"I don't want to lose touch with my friends,” said Ramirez who has moved numerous times in the last decade, but keeps the same email account to stay in touch with friends and family.
Immediately, she tried to cancel the Dial Internet account.
"That was that day that I spent over three hours calling,” said Ramirez shaking her head. “I got transferred and transferred to different people!”
She said she ended up talking to eight different people, none of whom could cancel her service. She then went online to try to cancel it herself.
“It’s a black hole!” she said, demonstrating the process on AT&T’s website, which does not appear to provide a way to cancel Dial Internet service online.
Dan Howard, an SMU marketing professor, studies customer service trends and said while there are some exceptions, the trends are not favorable for the consumer.
"Yes, customer service has been getting worse," said Howard. He said if the customer service representative is not able to provide an answer, don’t hang up.
"Then you ask to speak to the manager," he insisted. And if that’s unsuccessful, ask to speak to his or her manager. If you still are unable to achieve results, a business responds to actions that could potentially affect its bottom line.
"Then you go public," said Howard. He said use Facebook, Twitter and online reviews.
Ellie Ramirez got results when she reached out to NBC 5 Investigates' Consumer Unit.
I see you on TV all the time and you're the consumer person. And I thought, ‘I'm going to write to Deanna [Dewberry].’ I didn't know what else to do.”
NBC 5 Investigates' Consumer Unit reached out to AT&T. It canceled Ramirez’ Dial Internet service and refunded the monthly fee she’s been paying for the service back to 2011, the year it allowed customers to keep their email address after canceling or changing Internet service. Ramirez is getting a check from AT&T for $750.
"We’re focused on delivering an industry-leading customer experience and multiple third parties have indicated we’re best-in-class. We take price in resolving a customer’s issue on the first call, and more complex cases can be escalated to our management team for resolution,” wrote Charles Bassett, an AT&T spokesman.
Bassett also confirmed that in March of 2011 customers were informed by email that AT&T was updating its terms of service. Among the lengthy list of changes was that customers could retain access to their att.net account ID, primary email address and all email subaccounts when changing or canceling Internet service.
He also indicated the Terms of Service are available on AT&T’s website.