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

social lip service vs social customer serviceMany 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?


About the Author:

CEO / Founder Marketing Nutz, full service social media, digital marketing, experiential brand, conversion optimization agency. Ranked by Forbes as Top 10 Social Media Women and 10 Social Media Power Influencer. 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. Scot Duke July 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I wish the AT&T Wireless group would train the AT&T Landline group on fixing the problem instead of referring the problem to a manager who contacts you to tell you the fix to the problem in area is currently not in the budget. The total impact for AT&T not FIXING a problem on their uVerse and Landline division is costing them millions.  Thanks for your blog…great point and AT&T is on Twitter..wish they would get on Facebook or Google+ since I left Twitter for it being WAY TOO noisy.

    • ATTErik July 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

      Scot, as a matter of fact we (AT&T) are on Facebook right now. For consumers you can link to us at, and for Business customers you can find us at

      To find out more about what we are doing online for our business customers, please visit to find our links and watch our videos. 

      Thank you,

    • Christopher Baccus July 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Scott,

      Sorry you had a poor experience with our landline group. Please feel free contacting me about the issue and we’ll see how we can get some resolution for you.

      In regards to us being on other social networks, we have been on Facebook for several years and have a very active engagement where we typically respond to customer wall posts in a quick manner, along with many activations around marketing/news/events and of course care. Please learn more by checking out our page at (or

      We are looking at Google+ and have submitted our request to be part of their pilot. We decided not to create accounts Google would not support – business profiles created under personal profiles. Hopefully we will be part of the pilot and if not we will be watching how brand participation evolves on the platform. I have personally shared some of my thoughts on Google+ based on my personal usage over the past few weeks. You can check it out on my personal blog here: (sorry not trying to link bait, I honestly don’t care about traffic to my personal blog.)

      Hope that helps shed some light on our activities in social Scott. Thanks for taking the time to respond here.

      Thanks Pam for sharing your experience with us and I am looking forward to being a guest on #GetRealChat tomorrow night.

      Christopher Baccus
      Exec Director of Digital & Social Media
      twitter: @cbaccus:twitter

      • Scot Duke July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

        Hey Chris, Thanks for reply.  As a former AT&T manager I am familiar with all levels of the Customer Service on all of AT&T subsidiaries.  Maybe we can visit at the next Social Media Club gathering and I’ll fill you in on all that has taken place in the AT&T arena for the past 35 years.  Pam, Thanks again for your blog.

  2. Chris Norton July 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Pam-Thanks for writing this; I happen to be working on the team working on driving culture and operational changes inside the company with respect to Social Customer Care. It reinforces the things that are working and helps us work with other internal organizations to demonstrate the value of our efforts. To Scot’s point below, as you can imagine, with an entity as large as AT&T, culture and “tradition” play into a lot of how we operate. Also, we are in fact actively listening on Facebook (as well as Youtube, and G+ is coming). I’d reccomend taking a look at our business community to get a good look at our suite of social care resources (

    Our business community would be a great place for your followers to let us know what we are doing well, as well as what we can improve on.



  3. allison Aldridge-Saur July 19, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Pam, I am so glad this happened to you and you took the opportunity to share your experience! I applaud At&T’s customer service engagement level through social media. I have also taken the approach of hiring the best customer service folks available as community managers and the results are phenomenal. 
    It is all there:
    1. Personal face to the customer
    2. “We care” attitude in action
    3. Exceptional follow through

    If you want folks to know what your brand stands for, show them live with the best customer service talent you have. Now At&T has a fan and her fans are very intrigued, at the least!

    This is a great case study of what good social media engagement can do for a company, unfolding before our eyes. I love it!

    • PamMktgNut August 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      I agree Allison. Good service can be more of an eye opener than bad.  Going above expectations on a service question such as what happened with this shows how successfully AT&T has been able to integrate social media into the dna of their biz.  

      Many orgs are years away from this and most will never make it.  They definitely have something to be proud about. 

      Love it! 

  4. […] I really enjoyed reading this personal case study post by Pam Moore on what it taught her about how your business can get social media right through exceptional cutomer service. […]

  5. PamMktgNut August 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Chris – I will take a look at the biz community & social care resources.  Chris Baccus did a great job on the #getrealchat a few weeks back.  I am sure we’ll have him back on. Maybe he could do  deeper dive on the biz suite. I think it could be helpful for many other biz leaders and owners! 

    You should be proud of what you have done. I must admit I was blown away! 

    I was on the chat line w/one of your competitors lastnight and I must admit they couldn’t answer a simple question as to how and where one would register for a biz account. I’ll be doing a write up soon.

    Keep up the good work!!! 


  6. Mojo Helpdesk August 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I absolutely love hearing these positive customer experience stories. Seeing what a company does right is so helpful. 
    What I really took away from this is: follow up, follow up, follow up! If the customer disappears for a while, don’t let them slip through the cracks. By taking the time to sned messages and do what you can to solve things on your end you will result in a customer who is completely satisfied once they are able to focus on the problem.
    Glad to hear you had such a great experience!! Too bad it couldn’t have been solved online, though…

  7. jblogg September 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I had a great experience with subscription music service Rdio. I wasn’t looking to get help via social, but they saw my tweets on 4-5 different issues and stuck with me to resolve, or even let me know when certain titles were coming out (i wasn’t even asking them!) – @jblogg

  8. […] Social public relations is a brave new world and Chris Baccus definitely knows which way it’s spinning. Many companies fail miserably when it comes to customer service via social media, appearing to be helpful when really all they do is push you back to a 1800 number you’ve already dealt with. […]

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