AT&T Answers My Call

As I’ve been getting our new home ready in preparation for the arrival of Karen, Maggie and Jack, I’ve been getting all of the utilities set up, including making sure we can use our primary phones, i.e., our cell phones from AT&T without any problem.  Well, it turns out that reception is horrible in our home, even though it wasn’t as bad in our previous home only a block away (it’s also been two years, and maybe tectonic plate activity or the ongoing shifting of true magnetic north may also be at work).

In any case, I went to AT&T and received a Micro-Cell Tower, which of course had to be configured, and as luck would have it, I was trying to do so on Memorial Day.  After an hour of frustration the day before, I called AT&T’s tech support.  Here is what happened in my email to AT&T customer service (I’ve removed identifying information of course):

Just wanted to day I received great customer service on Memorial Day from Ms. Cierra ____, agent code ____, and whose supervisor’s name is _____. She patiently and carefully got my MicroCell tower registered and operating successfully even when other parts of AT&T’s tech support were unavailable. AT&T definitely needs more employees like Cierra!

Aneil K. Mishra, Ph.D.

Apple iPhone 4 Promixity Sensor Problem? Read On!

Have you had any of the following problems with your iPhone 4:  Inadvertently muting, Hanging Up, engaging the speaker phone or dialing others when talking?  Read on!

Update 9-28-11:

If you’re having problems synching your iPhone calendar with Google Calendar, here are some solutions.

Update 4-22-11:

According to one of our blog readers who comments below, the proximity sensor has been redesigned.  Has anyone purchased an iPhone 4 recently who can comment on their experiences.

Update 4-1-11

It appears that cradling the phone between my head and neck exacerbates the proximity sensor problem. When I hold the phone parallel to my head sitting or standing upright, I don’t have the problem.  Maybe the gyroscope or whatever its equivalent in the iPhone doesn’t like the phone to be held at an angle.

Update 1-24-11:

I’ve had occasional problems with the proximity sensor in the past few weeks, perhaps a couple of times per week, but still not nearly as bad as my first iPhone 4.

Update 11-25-10:

So far, so good.  I may have had a few instances in which the proximity sensor didn’t work, but I’m not sure.  After scores of calls, however, it’s not really a problem, and with the 4.2 iOS update, perhaps I won’t have any more problems.  Plus, I can now print directly from my iPhone 4 to this printer, including attachments.  How cool is that?!

Update 11-10:

Karen’s Blackberry Curve died over the weekend, necessitating a new phone.  I convinced her to try an iPhone after reading mediocre reviews of the Blackberry Torch, especially regarding Gmail.  She agreed, but decided to take my iPhone 3GS, and have me get an iPhone 4.  I’ve had it for three days now, with none of the proximity sensor problems so far.

Update 10-19-10:

I think I’ll be waiting for the iPhone 5 release next summer.

Update 10-1-10:

The proximity sensor problem was NOT fixed with latest iOS update, which means there’s no reason for me to upgrade my phone.

Update 8-23-10:

The proximity sensor problem is still not fixed, and may not be with the latest software update.   I’m going to wait until they come out with a 64 GB version of the iPhone 4, when they will have presumably finally fixed all the glitches in the original iPhone 4.

Update 7-26-10 — iPhone 4 returned.

After enduring repeated problems with the sensor while traveling in Seattle, I returned the phone yesterday at my local Okemos, MI  AT&T store.  The assistant manager, with whom I’ve talked about this problem several times, stated once again that most of customers have not reported any problems with the phone, but “since it is manufactured in China, that is probably why some of the phones are defective.”  Nice.  I then was told that I would have to get the refund for my $69 AppleCare warranty from Apple unless I had all the proper packaging including the AppleCare serial number, which I did have and so was able to get a refund on the spot.

During the entire 15-20 minutes it took to get the refunds, I witnessed the assistant manager chastise one his employees for allowing one of their customers to see the computer screen that the employee was reading in order to convince the customer that her monthly minutes had not been used up.  “We can’t let you see the computer screen because it might contain notes on you we don’t want you to see.”  Wonderful.

It’s so “nice” to see AT&T not trusting its own customers while taking notes on us that might be objectionable.  You can see where my remaining loyalty to AT&T is going…


Update 7-16-10:

Here’s my interview in AOL News about this problem.

Steve Jobs admits there’s a problem:

By AppleInsider Staff

Published: 01:40 PM EST

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said on Friday that his company is aware of problems with the proximity sensor on the iPhone 4, and that they are working on a software fix that is expected to be included in the next iOS update.

The statements from Jobs were the first official confirmation from Apple on the issue that users have been experiencing since the handset first launched in late June. Users have found that the touchscreen on their iPhone 4 will sometimes activate while on a call, resulting in accidentally pressed buttons that can place a call on hold or even end it.

Update 7-16-10:

Apple is holding a press conference about its iPhone 4 problems today.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the company has several options, including:

4. Offer a Real Fix to Consumers Now
Even if only a few vocal consumers are hit with dropped calls, those consumers need to be placated. One option is a recall — a redesign of the phone and a replacement for anyone who wants one. Another is an in-store fix that would involve the application of something to mitigate the effects of the “death grip.” Apple also could offer its iPhone “bumper” for free.

In any case, it’s worth it to Apple, and everyone else, to do something now to make this issue go away. A fix that can’t be implemented immediately will slow sales and anger customers.

And a discounted case would not be enough. New York Senator Chuck Schumer even sent a letter to Mr. Jobs on Thursday insisting that the company “make a public commitment” to remedy the problem “free of charge.”


Update 7-9-10:, NOT!!

I had nothing but trouble with the Proximity Sensor today.  An Apple Care tech support person recommending a complete Restore, which required me to wipe everything from my iPhone and start over, and may have fixed the problem, but it caused another problem, which prevented me from syncing my songs or my apps.  I then had to contact tech support again, which led to this problem, which I reported via Apple’s email feedback option:

I was placed on hold and had given the support person my call-back number.  I was disconnected after being on hold for several minutes, and the person has yet to call back after several hours.  I believe I have found a way to fix the problem myself in the meantime.

I have spent a total of several hours now trying to fix two problems associated with my new iPhone 4.  After near-flawless performance from my iPhone 3GS over the past year, and now nothing but trouble with this new phone, and two tech support people that are uninformed about the problems, and now unresponsive, I am very disappointed in Apple’s product and service quality.

Aneil K. Mishra, Ph.D.


Original Post 7-8-10:

I just received my iPhone 4 in the mail yesterday, proudly set up all by myself, even though it took almost an hour to re-synch contacts, reinstall all my thousands of songs on iTunes, and get my apps updated and in all the folders I had on my iPhone 3GS.

Then, the trouble started.  I was talking with someone, and all of a sudden she couldn’t hear me even though I could hear her.  It turns out, my cheek had accidentally hit the mute button, but didn’t know that the time.  Today, the problem, and similar ones, such as accidentally dialing another person while I’m talking to someone, accidentally hitting the speaker button, all because the phone didn’t realize my cheek was touching the phone.

Karen, the Chief Budget Officer who reluctantly approves my never-ending requests for new technology, was not happy when these problems occurred while I was talking to her this afternoon.  I needed to get it fixed, pronto.

A description of the problem can be found here.

AT&T Wireless Keeps Our Trust by Providing Outstanding Customer Service and Listening to Us

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not shy about expressing my likes and dislikes, especially when it comes to customer service.  I’m happy to report that AT&T Wireless, which in my case is our cell phone/mobile phone (pick your term depending on what country you live in) provider and has been for the past several years.  Whenever we’ve had a billing issue, and there have been a few but not too many over the years, AT&T has readily fixed the problem.

Importantly, when there have been miscommunications or conflicting information provided between two of AT&T units (e.g., a local AT&T store, an AT&T representative retail store like Wireless One, or their corporate 1-800 people, AT&T usually and quickly resolved the matter in my favor.  They refunded several hundred dollars in international roaming charges for me once when I complained that I received conflicting information about whether unlocking my phone before traveling abroad would invalidate my cell phone warranty.  They’ve provided me with seamless transfer of phone numbers for all of our phones, and worked to get me easy-to-remember phone numbers when we moved from North Carolina to Michigan.  They quickly fixed a phone bill error this morning that saved me almost ninety bucks.

When our car was recently broken into,less than five minutes after my Karen and my daughter went into a local Starbucks, they quickly shut off our daughter’s cell phone and data services in case the phone was stolen (we couldn’t find it initially because luckily it had fallen under the car seat as the thief was scared away).  They just as quickly and seamlessly reestablished service on our daughter’s phone when we realized it hadn’t been stolen (she now takes it with even if she’s out of the car for only a few minutes).

I don’t like the amount of time I’m on hold occasionally waiting to talk to a support person, but usually the wait is very short.  Everyone I talk to at AT&T is both professional and unfailingly polite.

Occasionally our phone calls drop.  Sometimes we don’t get 3G speeds inside buildings or other places.  We pay a lot of money each month for our calling minutes and data services for our family’s phones.  Nevertheless, we’re very satisfied AT&T customers and expect to continue to be so in the future.


How to Lay Off People Properly Amidst the Unrelenting Downsizings

Even though we believe that layoffs should be used as a last resort, and have the published research to support it, there do come times when it’s necessary to lay off employees.  That’s why it was good to see Simon Constable in the Wall Street Journal recently recommend several ways in which to do it properly that fit with our findings and recommendations we made a decade ago in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  This includes our counterintuitive but important recommendation not to fire people on a Friday:

Don’t fire people on a Friday.

Don’t fire people late in the day.

Don’t make any layoff announcement until everyone affected has been informed.

Do offer to provide a good reference.

Fire people before Thanksgiving or after New Years, but not between.

Don’t piece-meal your chopping.

Don’t fire anyone by email.

We have an article in this spring’s issue of MIT Sloan Management Review that reflects upon and updates our article we published a decade ago:  “How do Downsize Your Company without Downsizing Morale.”  For  additional ideas and case studies on how to downsize or lay off people properly, be sure to read our book, Trust is Everything.

If you’d like a copy of our previous MIT Sloan Management Review article, Preserving Employee Morale During Downsizing, please contact us.


Below is a listing of downsizings that I have been keeping track of over the past several months, using data published by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.  The list does not include the 2,000 job cuts that GM announced today as well.  It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of the horrific toll that downsizing is having in the U.S. and abroad:

Company Downsizing Percent Date
Citigroup 50,000 14% 11/17/08
Bank of America(Merrill Lynch) 35,000 11% 12/11/08
Caterpillar 20,000 18 1/27/09
AT&T 12,000 4% 12/4/08
DHL (U.S. staff) 9,500 73% 11/10/08
Dell 8,900 10% 10/22/08
Circuit City 8,000 20% 11/10/08
Sony (electronics division) 8,000 5% 12/9/08
Sprint Nextel 8,000 N/A 1/27/09
Merck 7,200 12% 10/22/08
Home Depot 7,000 N/A 1/27/09
NG Groep NV 7,000 N/A 1/27/09
DuPont 6,500 4% 12/4/08
UBS 6,100 26% 10/3/08
Sun Microsystems 6,000 18% 11/14/08
Credit Suisse 5,300 10% 12/4/08
Chrysler 5,000 25% 10/24/08
Dow Chemical 5,000 11% 12/8/08
J.P. Morgan Chase (Washington Mutual) 4,000 21% 12/1/08
National City 4,000 14% 10/21/08
U.S. Steel 3,500 13% 12/2/08
Texas Instruments 3,400 12 1/27/09
Goldman Sachs 3,260 10% 10/23/08
Fidelity Investments 3,000 7% 11/14/08
Motorola 3,000 4.50% 10/30/08
Xerox 3,000 5% 10/23/08
Micron Technology 2,850 15% 10/9/08
Textron 2,200 5.20% 12/23/08
Applied Materials 1,800 12% 11/12/08
State Street 1,800 6% 12/3/08
Yahoo 1,500 10% 10/21/08
Nortel Networks 1,300 5% 11/10/08
Unisys 1,300 4.30% 12/22/08
eBay 1,000 10% 10/6/08
Mattel 1,000 3% 11/6/08
Viacom 850 7% 12/4/08
Adobe Systems 600 8% 12/3/08
Carlyle Group 100 10% 12/3/08