AT&T Response to CEO E-mails Leads to Backlash

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AT&T's CEO may be complaining about two e-mails from a displeased customer, but now he may be in for many more.

AT&T customer Giorgio Galante says that he sent two e-mails in two weeks to Randall Stephenson complaining about different issues as an iPhone customer. In response, he claims to have received a voicemail, which he posted online, from an AT&T representative thanking him for his feedback and warning him that if he sends additional e-mails, AT&T will send him a cease and desist letter.

AT&T says it is apologizing to Galante and working with him to address his questions. "This is not the way we want to treat customers," the company said in a statement. "From Facebook to significant customer service channels, AT&T strives to provide our customers with easy ways to have their questions addressed."

Now that Galante posted his original e-mail and the recording of the voicemail online, and popular blog Engadget wrote about it, AT&T may wish it hadn't left the warning. Hundreds of people have commented on the Engadget post, many who say they've already e-mailed Stephenson, hoping to flood his inbox.

While in the early days of e-mail some CEOs were so technologically inept that they had their assistants print all their e-mails for them, these days some CEOs -- particularly in the technology sector -- dole out their e-mail addresses as a way to try to show customers that they care.

For instance, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer almost always gives out his e-mail address when he finishes a speech. Sprint's Dan Hesse is featured in TV advertisements where he encourages customers to e-mail him directly. In fact on Thursday, it appears that Hesse replied to an e-mail from a customer who asked if Sprint intended to alter its data plans, according to another Engadget report .

Apple's Steve Jobs has become perhaps best known for delighting seemingly random fans by replying directly to their e-mails, sometimes with one-word answers. He often appears to shrewdly use such replies to disseminate information, knowing that many people will post the e-mail exchange online.

Earlier in the day, Galante wrote on Twitter that AT&T hadn't approached him, despite all the attention now drawn to his e-mails. "The silence is deafening -- haven't heard a peep out of AT&T," he wrote.

By mid-afternoon, he added a new post to his blog saying that AT&T had contacted him. He spoke with a senior vice president at AT&T who apologized for what happened and said she is working to make sure a similar situation doesn't happen again. "All in all, it's clear that Mr. Stephenson's mail filtering staff needs some additional training on dealing with customers. It would have been nice to hear from Mr. Stephenson though," he wrote.

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