SAN ANTONIO: The crisis plan that AT&T had set up in the event of any issues plaguing the launch of Apple's highly anticipated iPhone was in full swing the day after the product's release, due to a series of complaints regarding activation problems.
The exclusive US carrier partner for the device worked all channels of the media to explain that even though the number of people experiencing problems represented a small percentage of iPhone users, rectifying those problems was a top priority for the company.
Tim Klein, VP of PR for AT&T Wireless, said the communications and support efforts run by the sales operations, PR, and customer-care teams following the launch went smoothly, and that the bulk of the complaints were resolved in the first 24 hours. Klein said if an issue wasn't resolved in that time, it was prioritized "to make sure" it got taken care of as soon as possible.
"We were here long hours," Klein said. "The team of six or seven [who were] here most of the time were able to put together necessary materials, response, and the tactics to address whatever issues did develop. We were able to adjust and respond quickly and it worked well. So over a period of 24 hours, the customer-care and sales-ops teams really resolved the bulk of the issues that we had with customers. They apprised us of their progress and we were able to get that message to the public."
According to some reports, more than 700,000 iPhones were sold in the first three days of availability. Klein would not discuss specific numbers, but said, "There were a lot of phones" sold and that both Apple and AT&T "virtually sold out in the first 24 hours."
In discussing the issue with the media, Klein said AT&T wanted to convey two specific points. The first was that there were several thousands of successful activations and those experiencing problems represented a small percentage. Second, that the company realized not being able to activate the phone was a significant problem for the consumer, thus making it a significant issue for AT&T.
"There was some distortion in that there were thousands of people who had a very positive experience, but we needed to address those customers that were [encountering] some difficulties," Klein said. "What we did first was emphasize that we were working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We tried to get word out that it was a small percentage, but still any percentage is significant when you're talking about customer care."
Klein explained that it was the bloggers who first began discussing the activation issues and that AT&T responded through as many channels as it could.
Klein said if bloggers were referencing a specific iPhone issue on their sites, AT&T "tried to explore [the issue] and find out exactly what the problem was that they were experiencing - whether it was a blogger or any-one else. [There was] definitely some misinformation out there regarding customer issues, which we tried to correct immediately."
Klein added that he did not wish to discuss what type of misinformation was being reported.
Going forward, Klein explained that a main priority for AT&T Apple is to get the phone into the hands of as many media members as possible.
"One of the key focuses we have now is making sure we get demo devices out to local reporters through our local media teams, which is difficult because they are still in short supply," he said. "We want to make sure that everyone gets an idea of how cool the iPhone really is."