Breaking point

When do you push so hard that customers get to the breaking point?  And do you think you hear much from them until the moment when they’ve had it with you?

Here’s what you have to do in order NOT to run up a $4,000 cellphone bill when traveling internationally with your iPhone.

  1. Figure out your monthly data usage (either by logging on to the AT&T website, assuming you know how to do that, or knowing to ask the customer service rep this, after 5 minutes of navigating the voice response system).  Mine is nearly 300MB on an iPhone 3GS
  2. Pre-buy a certain amount of “international data” (sold in 20MB, 50MB, 100MB, and 200MB increments)
  3. Pray that this sticks (it didn’t for me, so I had to do this twice, once from the US and once from abroad…what would I do without Skype?)
  4. Go on your international trip and use your phone.  (Note: phone calls still cost at least $1/minute)
  5. Come home and tell them you’re through with the data service
  6. (oh, and there’s a catch here — if you discontinue after two weeks they only credit you with half of the data you purchased, so if you bought 100MB, used 75MB, disable the international plan after two weeks, you’ll be charged $4/MB for the 25MB “over” you went)

Why share all this detail?  Just to illustrate the 2+ hours I had to invest to figure this out (and hope that I’m saving others this wasted time).  Do you think AT&T is trying to make me happy or make as much money off of me as they can?  And aren’t iPhone users their best customers?

Imagine if they put as much effort into making their best customers happy as they do into creating a system that naturally results in “gotcha” $4,000 cellphone bills which date back to 2007

You know when you’re treating your customers right and when you’re milking them for all they’re worth.  Which strategy do you think is going to work in the long term?

(Oh, and this is the same thinking that got us into the subprime mortgage mess.)