Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to AT&T customer service representatives, both in-store and over the telephone, a few times for various reasons. I’ve also received several followup surveys via text message, following the receipt of service. Invariably, at the time service was rendered or during the followup survey, one of your employees always finishes our communication by asking if there is anything else they can do to help me. Each time, I’ve told them that there is, indeed, something they can do. I carefully explain, either verbally or in writing, that there isn’t just something they can do for me. Moreover, there is something they, as a customer service-conscious company, can do for parents and senior citizens.
The following is what I explain to AT&T (It is also the word-for-word message I’ve texted them during their last two followup surveys):
Customer service is generally good, but the company’s policies on not allowing smartphone use without a data plan don’t give parents the freedom to give their kids a phone that allows for music listening and game playing, without worrying about online security. If I have an old iPhone I want to pass on to my kids, I should have the option to pay $5.00 for a “Semi-smart data plan” that will allow MMS but not provide data (read: internet) except for times that Wi-Fi is available. If I buy the latest iPhone, pass the old one on and pay the $5.00, it’s a win/win situation for me and AT&T. Please pass this along to the powers that be, as I believe a lot of parents (and senior citizens who want smartphones but don’t need data) would take advantage of the offer.
During the telephone conversations with customer service representatives, I’ve gone as far as to encourage the employee to present it to their supervisors as their idea and add that I don’t care who gets credit, as long as I am given a more fair and secure option, as a parent. Do they tell anyone? If they have, are supervisors listening? There is unfortunately no way for me to tell.
The bottom line is that today’s kids don’t want dumb phones. Whether it’s a sign of society’s impending downfall or not is irrelevant to me. As a parent, I prefer to give my child a phone that also serves other purposes. If (okay, when) I buy a new iPhone, shouldn’t I be able to safely make it a technological hand-me-down?
Unfortunately, you cannot simply insert a compatible SIM card in an iPhone and go very long without AT&T detecting that it’s an iPhone and slapping on the $30.00/3 Gb data plan. Yes, I could pay for the lower priced plan ($20.00/300 Mb) and lock down the iPhone via settings, but then, I would be paying for services that I didn’t want in the first place. Without either of them, MMS functionality is lost.
So, I now pitch it to AT&T, via the Interwebz, in hopes that (a) they’ll listen and recognize that a new, smartphone niche needs filling or (b) like-minded parents, children of tech-indifferent, senior citizens, tech-saavy senior citizens or netizens who just like to rally behind a worthwhile cause will inundate AT&T with the message until they do recognize the need for an alternative to the current “no smartphone without a data plan” regime…I mean…policy.
Of course, if another service provider were to offer it sooner, I (and others) might be quite tempted to go somewhere that our concerns, as parents and senor citizens, are more appreciated. So once again, AT&T, you have the suggestion. The marketing ball is in your court. I hope to hear an announcement of the “Semi-smartphone Plan” very soon.