Business Analysis: AT&T Offers 1000 Free Rollover Minutes To Loyal Customers

I know the main question many of you fellow AT&T customers have is probably this: is the Free 1000 Rollover Minutes legit or a scam?  The simple answer is: yes, AT&T *IS* giving away 1000 free rollover minutes..  To select loyal customers, that is.  Initially, the belief was that this offer was only being extended to AT&T iPhone customers yet I’ve found reports that Blackberry, Inspire, and other smartphone users have gotten it as well.  I decided to see what a AT&T Customer Service Representative (his name was Solomon, in case you were curious) had to say about it.  Here’s what he told me (or at least what the script told him to say):

Currently, we are only offering the free rollover minutes to loyal AT&T customers.  If you did not receive a text message with the offer, requests will be processed on a case by case basis.

He then went on to add that, if I got the confirmation stating that I would receive my free 1000 rollover minutes in 4-6 weeks, then I qualified.  There seems to be a few discrepancies here, especially since he said it may take 6-8 weeks.  I imagine the demand is rising rapidly, especially since this offer only popped up on the interwebz around Saturday, February 12th 2011.

AT&T Security Guard

Hey, every business needs a gatekeeper.. Why NOT a big, bald guy?

I suppose that is the sort of beat-around-the-bush response you can expect from any CSR (Customer Service Rep in vanilla speak).  You can see the value in having AT&T limit how many people go on to tell their friends.  Quite frankly, I was surprised there was no mention of the free rollover minutes loyalty offer on their web site, prerecorded messages, or even the official AT&T Facebook page.  That said, I have a feeling that they’re going to approve everyone automatically but they’re going to position the offer as a perk for “loyal customers”.  At this point, they’re probably trying to control call volume while not creating any more buzz about this whole thing than there needs to be.

Why is AT&T offering this now?  Why do the loyal customers matter at this point?  For jaded AT&T customers, the Verizon iPhone news, as announced on the magical date of 1/11/11, presents a way out but there’s more to it…

The writing has been on the wall for AT&T for quite some while. While they’re not alone with service issues and over-priced plans, AT&T has become an easy target since they’re the big kid on the block, so to speak. Jon Stewart poked fun at AT&T on The Daily Show a while back (below is the Daily Show AT&T Dropped Calls / Verizon iPhone Announcement video clip). He makes some valid points though, honestly, I don’t have the dropped call or spotty service issue that everyone else is ranting about.

Now, while I don’t have any issues with dropped calls or slow data speeds, I definitely agree that AT&T needs to get more competitive with pricing.  AT&T lacks real loyalty rewards, which is something I know T-Mobile is very good about..  Verizon, not so much.  Verizon has always had a lackluster product line with regards to mobile phone selections but that is clearly changing.  Yes, Verizon has some of the best coverage due to their sticking to CDMA (Collision Detect Media Access network.. no SIM card used) over GSM (the global wireless networking standard that uses SIM cards to authenticate connections) but they are not without their own issues.

Allow to rant about Verizon a bit since they’re getting too much love these days.  I was a Verizon customers twice in my life and each time was a nightmare.  Billings problems and terrible customer service were not worth the trade-off in my eyes.  Verizon mostly outsources their customer service so that means you’ll be dealing with script monkeys most of the time.  That right there is the mark of sub-par customer service and terrible overall marketing.  But, wait, there’s MORE reason to dislike Verizon and temper your expectations!

As VentureBeat reports, the Verizon iPhone launch is no AT&T iPhone launch.  Most reports seem to indicate that Verizon iPhone buyers are mostly Verizon customers, with only a small percentage coming from AT&T.  You really have to stop and wonder why that is, no?  While this has been downplayed by VentureBeat and other analysts, the reality is that the Verizon network has it’s limitations.  While you get possibly the most reliable/stable wireless voice coverage in the United States, the data speeds and overall coverage is questionable, at best.  Several Verizon customers that I know have personally told me that their smartphones lack real multitasking capabilities.  For those that rather talk on the phone above all else, this is a non-issue, but, for the rest of us geeks, not being able to text while viewing a web page or talking on the phone is a deal breaker (sorry, Verizon).

With that in mind, is AT&T really responding to the impending threat of real Verizon competition or is it more complex than that?  I vote for the latter.  The recent 2011 Verizon iPhone 4 launch only created further strategic urgency; after all, it was a series of events that lead to the chaos of today.  While the Apple aficionados may disagree here, the iPhone is hardly AT&T’s flagship phone or “secret weapon”.  Let’s be honest here: you can walk into almost AT&T corporate store and virtually all the sales associates are peddling iPhones.  They’re practically giving the darn things away now and do not underestimate the growing Android platform (GO FROYO) market share!

It is my sincere hope that AT&T has seen the err in their ways and has been humbled by all the customer complaints and this supposed “final blow” to their wireless business.  You have to consider the fact that Verizon customers will have to wait a while to get last year’s hottest technologies (at least with regards to the iPhone) so they’ll be lagging behind AT&T for a while.  If AT&T plays it smart, they’ll restructure their pricing and drive more value home for their most loyal customers, the true AT&T fanatics (what few are not “on the fence” right now).

For starters, bring back unlimited data plans and add more levels of service.  The current packages really turn off customers.  While T-Mobile commits to right-fitting customers (at least on paper), AT&T is more about a “one size fits all” approach.  I guess you can get away with this but where’s the opportunity to make customers feel more valuable?  Any reputable business MUST recognize and reward tenure.

Forcing customers off grandfathered plans and features when they wish to upgrade their phones is a bad move as well.  Again, AT&T is not alone in this but, of course, they’re getting the brunt of customer complaints now that they don’t have the market cornered as much (to some, this is like the fall of the evil empire).  Regardless of my personal feelings for Verizon, it’s good to see more competition and diversification.  Hopefully, it’ll keep everyone honest.

SIDEBAR: Admittedly, I feel a little dirty letting the world know I am an AT&T customer.  As it is, all my friends remind me about how I am overpaying for my service.  Still, when I consider the alternatives, I’m happy where I am!

Now that we have all that boring business talk out of the way, let’s get to the fun part: the FREEBIES!  Here is how you can get your 1000 free rollover minutes from AT&T:

Well, would you look at that. A day after the Verizon iPhone goes on sale to the general public, AT&T is dishing out 1000 free rollover minutes to all of its customers. The catch? None that we are aware of — the wireless company apparently just wants to thank all of its awesome customers for, you know, not making the switch to some other carrier with Apple’s smartphone. Simply text “yes” to 11113020 to be awarded the talk tokens — which will probably just pile up on top of the thousands you’ve undoubtedly already accumulated. Too bad they can’t prevent dropped calls.

Engadget is one of my favorite sorts for techie news but they seemed to fail to do a little extra research.  Apparently, AT&T already contacted those that they deem “loyal” so there is a catch: no one is guaranteed the free minutes and they are not immediately credited (unlike when AT&T last did a stunt like this back in 2008, just for listening to a sales pitch).  Interestingly enough, I’ve been with AT&T for over 8 years and, well, I did not get the SMS text.  I am a tad bit hurt but, well, at least I am not a Verizon customer.  Can you hear me now?

*** POTENTIAL SCAM ALERT: While this offer is legit, there are other SMS providers using this as an opportunity to get you to subscribe to their monthly billable services.  As always, check your first-hand sources first and make sure you validate any URLs, links, addresses, etc.  For safe measure, I’d call up AT&T customer service first and see what they say. ***

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