Notes From the AT&T Idea Lab

Aug 20, 2014 11:05 AM ET

Posted from the AT&T Blog

By: Roman Smith

One of the most challenging, yet fulfilling parts of my job is learning about who our customers are and how to engage with them. We understand that when individuals walk into an AT&T store, they usually want to learn more about our devices and services, but we also want to help them learn more about who we are as a company.

I wish I could say there is an exact science to creating and executing in-store sustainability programs –that there is some sort of sustainability “idea lab,” where we mix all the elements of philanthropy, sustainability and community engagement in a beaker and a grand idea elixir is born. Unfortunately, that is not the case just yet. Rather, the process we actually use can feel a bit laborious, as it’s rigorous both internally and externally. Worse yet, we don’t get to wear cool lab coats. It’s all a process to ensure that whatever programs we roll out will meet the high expectations our consumers have for us.

Fostering a greater understanding of the programs that AT&T operates to our consumers is a key part of what my team does – especially as it relates to environmentalism. Over the past few years, my team launched many environmental initiatives in our retail locations. In all of those programs, including paperless billing, sustainable packaging design, the AT&T Eco-Rating program and device recycling, we are always looking at ways to engage customers on sustainability in our core retail experience. Then, as soon as an idea is launched in-store we go back to our labs (well, our desks) and try to figure out what other creative ways we can engage with our consumers.

We’re in the midst of one of these pilot programs as we speak. In an effort to increase device recycling and support local schools through (an organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects), we launched pilots in Austin, Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Seattle in late June. Here’s how the pilots work:

  • In Austin and Charlotte we’ll donate $5 to DonorsChoose, up to a total of $25,000 for each city, for each wireless device recycled or traded in under the program.

  • In Seattle and Pittsburgh we’ll donate $5 to DonorsChoose, up to a total of $25,000 for each city, when someone trades in or recycles an old device and purchases any new phone or tablet in the same transaction.

We’re about halfway through the pilot and – without giving too much away – I’m excited about the results thus far. I’ve visited three of our four trial markets so far, and loved the feedback from customers and retail employees alike. Supporting local schools while taking advantage of a recycling opportunity feels like a double win to me.

When these donation programs conclude on September 11, we’ll take all of the data received and start our evaluation process. It is exciting to engage our customers in new ways on issues that are not only important to AT&T, but to many of our customers in the communities in which we serve.  AT&T is committed to the environment and we challenge ourselves each and every day on ways that allow our customers to have a greater role in making a positive impact.

Want to be part of that process? Please leave a comment or send me a tweet @TexasRoman. Opinions like yours are key factors for what gets rolled out in-store, and what stayed locked up in “the lab.”