Good Fences Make Good Customers

Tele Switchboard-OperatorsThis is how some empowered employees saved the day for AT&T.

Once admitted, it becomes easier to say I am a traditionalist.  As a result, I can explain and defend my choice of AT&T for our long distance carrier way back in 1990.

After all, what can be more solid a foundation than  American Telephone & Telegraph, even today?

It was with a sense of comfort too, that we chose Illinois Bell as our local service provider.  Again, “The Bell” is as American as it gets, though there are worthy claims that Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone in Brantford, Ontario, just a few miles from my home town.

Over time we were whip-sawed back and forth between Ameritech, Cingular, SBC Communications and Comcast Cable, but at the end of the day it was AT&T that ran the table.

Today we have two land lines, two cell phones, cable and Internet courtesy of AT&T.  It is no surprise that they send us separate bills for each service, because when you add them all up, we are a primo account.

And despite the onslaught of Comcast who pursued us for years, we have stayed with AT&T.

Why? Three reasons, straight from Customer Goodwill 101.

First, AT&T brazenly gave us a $300 new account cash bonus, plus a monthly discount of about $50 for three months.

We shamelessly accepted.   And then endured a three-hour visit from a techie in sanitary shoes who puttered around our house and basement drilling holes and tapping keyboards.  He flashed a TV remote in front of us, and wished us good luck.

We are still trying to figure out the remote, but never mind.

Second, the modem died once, and after some tense withdrawal pangs, exacerbated by a frustrating phone diagnosis, a techie “snuck out” to our house under the pretense of doing a new install, and gave us a new modem.

“Don’t tell anyone I did this.  We are really supposed to handle only new customers during the sales contest.”   He fixed our problem, very much against the rules, I think.

Third, with the authorization of the Village, AT&T announced they were installing a new VRAM unit at the back corner of our lot.   Armed with an “easement”, they came to take our tiny little green cable post away and replace it with a small nuclear reactor the size of a Uhaul trailer.

“It’s for Internet Mr. Brown.   WiFi.    We gotta put it here.  We got approval from Village Hall.”   He stared at our flower bed.  “You want we should move your Mums over there maybe?”

Stunned, I asked, “You can just come here and do that?”

Waving a sheaf of papers, the contractor confirmed it, but then he went on.

“Actually, we’re gonna fix this up nice.   We need about 30 square feet for the pad.  We’ll put a nice cedar fence around it, and then some new dogwood and forsythia in front of that.”


“There’s more actually.”  The contractor eyed the shaky stockade fence across the back of our lot.  “We’re gonna hook the fence up to yours.  But while we’re at it, why don’t we just give you a new fence, too?”

“Really?  You’ll do that?”

“Why not?  You’re a good customer.”


True to their word, the new box went in, the new fence went up, and the bushes flowered the coming spring.

In return, we still pay egregious amounts of money on three separate bills.   Once a week I mow around their humming VRAM, faithfully and carefully so as not to upset whatever it is doing in there.

And, we still scratch our heads about the remote.


Thanks for reading this through to the end!  You know, a good customer can be hard to find, but another good customer can be even harder.  Train your employees to keep the ones you have.


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