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October 18, 2007

How not to do customer support forums - a lesson for AT&T

I have been a user of the Cingular/ATT 8525 Windows mobile phone for a long time now.  After some initial problems which caused me to get a new phone, it has worked fairly well.  While not the best cell phone (the bluetooth stinks, but I think that is more a bluetooth earpiece problem, than the phone), the email and applications rock.  However, there have been lingering bugs and stability problems with the Windows Mobile 5 (anyone who has a windows mobile 5 phone can confirm this).  For that reason I have been looking forward to ROM upgrade to the supposedly much more stable WM6 for some time.  AT&T had it up on their website that the upgrade would be available in early October. 

AT&T also runs a lively user forum and message board for support of their phones.  In fact a great community of users have assembled there.  Whenever I had any problems, I quickly learned that I was much more likely to get the fix and answer over there, rather than calling the AT&T support line and getting someone who knew nothing about my phone but was reading from some knowledge base.  For months now there have been multiple threads on the 8525 upgrade to WM6 and it was very eagerly anticipated.  When early October came and went with no upgrade from AT&T and instead they came out with a new model phone from HTC (who makes the 8525) with WM6 people began to wonder and comment what was going on.  Most of all they wanted an answer from AT&T as to what was going on and when to expect the upgrade.  First AT&T tried to blame Microsoft and HTC (both of which released the WM6 software for the phone already), then they just tried to ignore the questions.  That only made people more upset and the community was pretty much up in arms. 

So what did the customer friendly folks at AT&T do?  They took a page from the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department and decided to sensor and shut down the entire conversation.  Below is the recent post they put up explaining why they have decided to "take a break" from anyone posting on this subject and threatening to revoke anyone's posting privileges if you dare try to.  I say nonsense to that!  How would AT&T like if we "took a break" from paying our phone bill?  This is censorship and piss poor customer service at its worst.  All AT&T have to do is give the people an indication when the release will come out.  Also, giving them a place to vent on the forums was a good thing.  Now, people will take matters in their own hands.  I for one have already upgraded to WM6, downloading an ATT branded ROM from over at the excellent XDAdevelopers forum.  It works fine and I am not hostage to AT&T trying to get people to buy a new phone by not releasing the software upgrade.  SHAME ON YOU AT&T!

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