AT&T And T-Mobile CEO Duke it Out on Twitter

take off gloves - ATT and T-Mobile

Small business owners know every customer counts, and it looks like big companies might be starting to figure that out, too.

We saw something recently that we don’t often see:  the CEO of a large corporation jumping into a Twitter exchange involving a customer and a competitor.

As battles go, this one was not much of one.  It was actually quite tame.  But still, it was noteworthy because of how rare it is to see two competitors go head to head on Twitter.  And as The Next Web reported, it looks like T-Mobile came out ahead – at least on this round.

A Customer With a Problem

Jay Rooney a.k.a. @RamblingRooney had a problem. He didn’t like paying extra for data on his smartphone while…err, rambling abroad. And he had heard there was a better solution.

On his Twitter feed recently, he complained:

As any small business owner knows, every opportunity starts with a problem you can solve. But sometimes that’s where customer engagement comes in. A T-Mobile representative was there quickly with a gentle nudge:

What’s Most Important to the Customer

Of course, to their credit, AT&T was quick to respond with an issue about quality:

But in the end it’s knowing what’s most important to the customer that counts. Jay tells us soon enough:

T-Mobile is quick to respond … both to the competitor and to filling the customer’s need:

While Jay is obviously flattered by all the attention, the most important tweet is yet to come from T-Mobile CEO John Legere:

Eventually the customer comes back and reports that he did switch to T-Mobile.

Incentives and great products and services are important, but as the CEO you are often the most important representative of your brand. And taking the time to show you care can sometimes be the most important branding of all.

But It Could Have Backfired

However, there’s a potential downside.  Getting involved in a Twitter exchange can easily backfire.  Most company CEOs wouldn’t (a) man their own Twitter accounts, or (b) respond, possibly out of fear that it would become an all-out brawl or that it would not end well for their brand.  You have to be very confident of the way you handle yourself on social media as the CEO.  You have to be willing to take a risk that it could all turn around on you.

In this case it didn’t backfire. There seems to have been a happy ending for T-Mobile and the customer.  T-Mobile gained a customer — and the customer seems happy currently.  But we can see how it easily could have gone a different way.

What’s your view?  As the owner of your company, would you jump into the fray on Twitter to try to win a customer?

Gloves image: Shutterstock

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Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.

6 Reactions
  1. It really takes courage to really get out there and be authentic. Some people are just way too afraid. But if you believe that you have a good company with good products and services, then there is really nothing to be afraid of.

    • Hi Aira,

      True it takes courage … but seems to me it could easily have gone a different way and blown up in that CEO’s face. And it still might. Who knows – that person who is so happy now could be unhappy later.

      Some might call the CEO’s actions risky or foolhardy. 🙂

      – Anita

      • I see what you’re saying. They’re lucky that the action has turned to their favor. But I do get what you’re saying that customers can be unpredictable.

  2. Thumbs up all the way to the CEO of Tmobile. Transparency wins every single time. Not only was AT&T dodging the “elephant” in the room but they really came across childish in there responses.

  3. There’s a probability T-Mobile gained more than one new customer with that Twitter exchange.

    Both companies took a chance considering how humungous they are, with T-Mobile taking the bigger one as there was an actual person’s name involved AND it was the CEO.

    AT&T came off worse for wear, in my opinion, because they made the initial dig at T-Mobile. You also don’t try and keep a customer by insulting your competition.