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AT&T CEO admits it made a mistake by having a lawyer respond to a customer

And so the saga of AT&T and one of its self-described “lifelong” customers, Alfred Valrie, might have finally come to an end, as AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson admitted to The Los Angeles Times that having a lawyer respond to Valrie’s suggestions might not have been a great idea.

In a letter to the outlet, Stephenson said his firm “blew it” and that its interaction with Valrie wasn’t up to snuff with how a customer should be replied to.

“At AT&T, our top priority is to treat our customers to a premium experience every time they interact with us, and our consistent award-winning service demonstrates we usually get it right,” read part of the letter. “Unfortunately, we don’t meet our high standards 100% of the time.”

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Stephenson went on to say that AT&T “fumbled a response to our customer Alfred Valrie, who sent me a suggestion for improving service.” However, Stephenson said this fumble has been “already corrected.”

The AT&T-Valrie controversy began when Valrie sent Stephenson an email which contained possible additions and alterations to AT&T’s mobile and Internet plans. Stephenson forwarded the email to AT&T’s legal department, which then led to AT&T chief intellectual property counsel Thomas A. Restaino responding to Valrie by implying that AT&T doesn’t take suggestions from customers.

“AT&T has a policy of not entertaining unsolicited offers to adopt, analyze, develop, license, or purchase third-party intellectual property … from members of the general public,” Restaino wrote to Valrie. “Therefore, we respectfully decline to consider your suggestion.”

AT&T spokeswoman Georgia Taylor said this response was to “protect” the company from those who have made unsolicited ideas and then threatened AT&T with legal action because they believe the company took their ideas. Internet chat relating to the incident, however, saw Restaino’s response as a metaphor for AT&T’s lack of empathy and responsiveness towards its customers, with T-Mobile CEO John Legere offering his email address to those who want to provide suggestions.

In addition, T-Mobile created the IdeasForRandall@T-Mobile.com email address for AT&T customers who want to send their suggestions to the United States’ third-largest carrier.