In re: AT&T DSL customer service fun…

After my time spent with many AT&T customer services folks I became pretty annoyed and penned this up.  This all stemmed from stopping voice service with AT&T and switching to ‘no voice’ or dry loop service, something they didn’t really make me aware of (apparently AT&T denies people want so called naked service and doesn’t mention it – see Techdirt post and SF Gate Article) but when I found out about wanted to switch.  The process wasn’t so simple and in the end there were countless calls and days waiting for a fix (my DSL had worked for the 3 years prior).  Anyway this is based on my recent dealings with AT&T online services, whose phone personel are generall both incompetent and very polite (they read a script though which makes calls 3, 4 and 5 sound very phony.  Further agrevating is their horrible interactive phone system that ‘tries’ to help you but really just delays you from doing anything. 

 I tried to find an email address to send a complaint but they don’t list one and instead make one fill out a web form and limit your characters.  So instead I’ll post what I was going to send them here, so you can enjoy it.

 “AT&T DSL/No Voice – A heroes journey sans a hero.”

To Whom It May Concern:

My experience with AT&T residential has truly been one of the worst
customer and customer service experiences I have had with any product
of service.  To begin with, this whole series of interactions with
your company began with a phone call to your sales department
regarding package pricing since I had voice, data and cell packages,
the savings they offered me were to increase the price $10, but the
whole point of my call was to see if I could lower the price (I only
had the voice, 15 metered calls a month, in order to have the DSL
line)  The representative didn’t understand this very clearly, but
eventually mentioned that I could have no voice and just DSL, which
was exactly what I was looking for as I use my AT&T cell phone for all
calls.  She told me that it would take about a week to drop the voice
and then I would only have data.  At no point did she allude in any
fashion to the process I would need to go through.

A few days following this I received a letter that looked like more
marketing, but opened it a few days later to see a listing of
equipment, installation costs and the like (mind you I have had your
high speed modem for over 3 years at this point) so this seemed like a
big mistake, this letter stated that I was starting new service, not
just ‘dropping voice’ as the sales rep had explained to me.  So I made
another call and after punching in keys in your phone system, I
finally talked to a rep who explained the letter was sent to everyone
and that it wouldn’t apply – there was no explanation of why you
couldn’t customize the letter to tell me I wasn’t being billed for all
these pieces of equipment.  I was assured all was fine.  (oh how n>aïve I was…)

A day or two following this my internet stopped working (it was the
day when I thought only voice would end) after calling almost no one
knew exactly what was going on, they knew about dry and wet loops and
they were adamant that the only way this process could work was to
disconnect my internet for 1 week until a line person would come
install the dry loop.  Of course this was news to me, someone who
relies on their internet, and was led to believe there would be no
interruption of service.  Eventually after talking to the ‘no voice’
team they assured me that the only way to get it faster was if they
could get a line person out earlier than scheduled but they were
booked full and this wouldn’t happen (I was never let in on the reason
why one needed to disconnect the previous internet that worked to do
this dry looping).

Then the big day, August 13, the day that after all these calls and
the letter had told me to expect service, although they had been
unclear as to when it would function.  So coming home from work at 5pm
I saw it was not working, another call to your help desk told me that
it wouldn’t work until 8pm.  8:30, 9:00, well give you guys another
hour, 10:00 and nothing, so I call again this time I am told that
actually it is 12am, midnight, that is the time that the internet
would start working.  So I hold off.  August 14 rolls around and still
no internet, I make a call in the morning but after getting through
the menu (having now learned the 0 – 0 – 0 (pressing zero repeatedly)
trick to skip the questions and the recording on Mcafee antivirus)
only to have the phone system some how screw up.  I call from work,
but they can’t do anything about it until I am home and can see the
modem.  I call from home around 5:30pm and presto, its actually not
supposed to be working until August 14, 2007 the rep tells me, and
this I am assured is the reason, despite telling them they told me on
the phone the day before (and the letter confirms) that August 13 was
to be the start date.  The rep assures me that the line should work by
8pm and that I should call back after then (again I am told that I
must listen to the menus, although for the first time I am told about
the 0-0-0 trick).  As of the time I am writing this sentence it is
only 6pm, I am extremely annoyed and frustrated and I have a sneaking
suspicion that come 8pm it won’t be working, the tech rep will tell me
some new story and that I should give up and done what I should have
long ago and signed up for a different provider.  Hopefully I am wrong
and it works.

I thank you for reading this (if in fact you made it this far)
normally I wouldn’t waste your time with this, but I really think your
company is doing a really poor job with this.  Your tech support
personal are all very friendly and polite, but that alone doesn’t
equal good customer support (hearing their bubbly apologizes following
worthless answers can sometimes feel almost worse then if they were
rude).  The sales rep having no knowledge of the no voice
activation/deactivation and the general compartmentalized fashion that
your call centers operates makes it miserable and frustrating to deal
with you on this issue.


Okay so after calling back after 8pm when it was supposed to be
activated by (and didn’t) I finally got people who started
acknowledging a problem and trying to fix it.  While the first people
were generally incompetent, eventually I got transferred to a local
tech support to setup local service, they were much better than anyone
I had dealt with before, gave me a local phone number etc.  The next
day they came out and indeed you hadn’t hooked up the DSL properly
outside, the lineman called me and told me he thought he fixed it, but
couldn’t know for sure of course since he was only outside.  He gave
me a pager number and that was quite nice.  I had been told I had no
user name and password so would probably need to get one later, they
couldn’t do this ahead of time though, so I dreaded having to go
through your phone system again.

Well magically I came home from work and wow, amazing it worked!

Update 2:

Well magically the next day its not working, this wasn’t too
surprising as I was using my old user name and someone had hinted I
would need a new one.  So I called up and went through the whole
process of explaining the problem, the tech support folks don’t really
want to listen to you and their first step is rebooting the computer
and some other things (not sure how they think this is going to effect
the modem?)

Anyway, part of the call beginning where I gave my info the 800th time
they ask if the number is a good one to call back on (apparently they
aren’t too clear on the whole no-voice concept of the whole no voice,
DSL program you have going on).  I give them my cell phone (its AT&T)
and they say they will call back on that if disconnected.  Well after
going for a while the line goes dead, so I give “Brian” or whatever
made-up name he was using that day 10 minutes to call back, but of
course despite all that no call back.  So I call up again, go through
the whole process and this time I am more forceful and make sure we
skip all the troubleshooting and this buy “Brian or Ryan 2” agrees and
says indeed I don’t have a user name or password (not sure how this
escaped Brian 1) but we need to go through and make one.  This works
and we get the whole thing setup, finally!

So the end of the story is this, the line is working, I will keep it
until I move, but never, ever, never, will I sign up for internet with
AT&T again no mater the price, the promotion or anything.  A simple
‘drop the voice’ call turned into hours spent on the phone, just to
get the line that was working, working again.

In parting a few tips for you (I am not a customer service specialist,
but after having spent time with your phone reps, I think these could
help you):

Don’t ask me what kind of modem I have every time I call, you gave it
to me, write it down, after I tell you the first time, why not log it
somewhere? (how about some knowledge management investment, make a
computer system to enter this stuff).
Similarly why don’t you write in you records what operating system I
tell you and other pertinent information rather than telling you for
the twentieth time.
Why ask the number in your automated system only to ask immediately
again?  Why not pass on the automated info to the phone rep?  It gets
annoying to do stuff again and again.

(Oh and if you happen to work for AT&T thanks for reading)


5 Responses

  1. Even the simplest of actions turns into the king of all clusterfucks for this company. I feel like a character in Catch-22.
    My roommate moved out and he switched the name on the bills over to me. Everything was fine, even AT&T phone service. The last thing we needed to do was switch the AT&T DSL over to my name. Easy, right? Not so fast, my friend.
    In order to change the name on a DSL bill, AT&T needs to take down the existing service and put up new service. Despite already having all the necessary equipment, this will take….

    wait for it…..

    wait for it….


    Ow. Slow down, AT&T. Not so rough. Could you at least use some lube?

    And just to rub it in, when I told them I absolutely could not be without the web for 10 days because I work from home, they offered me a business line.
    “Will it get my DSL up any faster?”
    I hate you.

    I hate you as much as you hate your customers, AT&T. Using the magic of photo editing software, I have tinkered with your logo to more aptly describe your corporate identity, as it relates to your attitude towards your customers. Enjoy:

  2. Hello, I wish that DSL trained the Customer Service Assistance much better. Unfortunately they are just ready to get people in the seats to take care of the 10 million people that call with problems like, no sync/surf, not able to get email, 2wire not working, etc….also unfortunately like most call centers the CSR agents learn once they get on the floor, training is just a bunch of chit chat. There aren’t any accounts to practice on because they only have real acounts. They’re like baby birds, after being fed but so much they are left on they’re own. Then there are people that get the service that still have Windows 95-98. Which makes everything frustrating when you call in because DSL don’t support those services only Windows 2000 on up. The billing dept don’t think to ask the customers what type of computer is being used. It’s really not the fault of the Service Reps that you all are having these problems. It’s how everyone is being trained. How about floor walkers that are suppose to help the Service reps out, they don’t so they’re left on the floor trying to defend for what they know nothing about because while in class the instructor is saying, well you’re going to learn everything when you get out on the floor. You don’t need any information. The bad thing about it, is that DSL has alot of workers that use to work for companies such as Comcast, geek squad, and other tech jobs. They’re the ones that already have the experience. When you get new comers, they hardly want to help and look at you as if there was something taught in class.

    Signed By,
    Gabriel Union

  3. Does anyone know of a customer support email address for AT&T?

    If I have to speak with them on the phone again, I’ll go mad.


  4. Hey Friends….
    Seems like eachone is very upset with AT&T….At the same time I would think it is my ignorance of not asking what would be the next step…..Say for example I bought a brand new cell phone and did not know how to operate it….What I would do is: I would learn how to operate it….on the net…look at the features it has on the net ….so that even before I buy the cell phone I have enough questions to ask the sales rep.Or else if even a single question was unanswered I would not say yes to that product.
    In regards to change of service be it a simple task of even changing the name on the account or for that matter conversion of dsl to dryloop, for me as a customer it is a simple process….but if i were to look at the technical part yes I would realise that there is lot that needs to be done.
    It is true infact that these situations increase the frustation level at the same time it is my duty as a customer to ask and know things….if I dont get answers from service reps …i will look into different AT&T sites and will find a solution.For example if my lines need to be repaired or I need to know the status of the repair I will make efforts to go to this site from probably a net center… and get info on the status of my repair than wait 30 to 45 mins on hold and then get the same answer that the site indicates..or not speaking to anyone but the voice mail…..atleast that reduces the frustration…..try to frequent AT&T’s sites: like,(a technical site that has all troubleshooting steps ranging from connection to email and all that ATT deals with.) offered by ATT,or even billing).What I would do rather than criticise someone or a company ….I will check If I did what was necessary from my part…coming back to the problem…that even a simple request like a change in name will take time….the answer is yes….It will take time…coz it is like ordering a new service …(I understand that you already had service….but its like ordering a new service where a service tech has to provision your lines.)…If it was something to do with software ….say for example the browser …it can be fixed within a specific time(say half an hour or 1 hour)..its faster…but for greater changes which look simple…like change in name or change of service from dsl to dryloop, the time is still longer…please understand it includes the physical changes, of course not at your side, but at the other end where you placed the order and any company would be the same….

    JACK SIMPSON (770) 530-6450

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