Darrel Clute

Ramblings from yet another IT Professional

22 September, 2008

AT&T Drops the Ball

By Darrel Clute · Read time: 7 min.

Rachel and I are in the process of finishing moving to our new house. In this process we completed a move order online for our phone and Internet service through AT&T whom we've been using for our local phone service and DSL Internet access for some time now. When we placed the order on the second of September we received notification that the completion date for the phone service would be on the sixth and the eighth for the DSL service. In my previous moves I've not run into any issues with moving service, well not this time.

When we brought the phones over on the sixth and connected them we were not receiving a dial tone. I didn't have time that day but over the next couple of days checked this from multiple jacks in the house and from the NID. I called AT&T and filed a trouble ticket on that issue. The technician came out the next day and told Rachel that he had to do a few things that normally aren't necessary to correct the issue. At this point it was past the eighth and the DSL wouldn't sync up. I gave this a couple of days and still nothing. I took the modem to the NID and tested it there, same result. This is when the ball really starts getting dropped by AT&T.

I called AT&T in the evening on the eleventh and got to the DSL Internet support group. The first technician I spoke with was working from a script and was pissing me off. He was asking for me to do things that I know would not work, like restarting my computer, especially since I was not getting sync from the NID. I had explicitly told him this a number of times yet he kept asking me to do these unrelated tasks and I continued to tell him to stop working from a script because the issue wasn't local. I finally got fed up with dealing with this idiot, who was just doing his job as he was explicitly told to do, and asked to speak to someone that wasn't going to work from a script or a manager. This is something that I have major issues with and will comment on later. I ended up speaking with a manager and he said that he was going to file the trouble ticket on the DSL service since I wasn't getting sync at the NID. About 45 minutes to an hour later I received an automated message stating that they found trouble on the line and were going to dispatch to correct the issue.

In the afternoon on the twelfth I received another automated message stating that they corrected the issue. I got home and checked the modem and it still was not able to sync. I wasn't able to test at the NID again due to the fact that that weekend as it was raining constantly. I checked at the NID on Monday evening and there still was no sync. Now the original confirmation stated that the order was going to be completed by the eighth but it was now the fifteenth. So I called back into the support and referenced the ticket that I had. I spoke with a gentleman who stated that there was no order. No order? When I spoke with the technicians the week prior they saw the order and acknowledged that it was a move order. He transfered me over to provisioning and they said that there was never a move order in the system. I knew this was not the case because I could still see it from the account manager on AT&T's site. I got transfered over to another department, this time a warm transfer instead of a cold transfer so I wouldn't have to explain everything again. They stated that there was a cancel order on the DSL and that a move order for the service was never issued. They stated that they couldn't place the order for service until that had cleared, which it wasn't going to clear until later that night. I was given a months credit at that time for the DSL service and then instructed to call back the next day.

When I called the next day the first person that I got after explaining everything was going to cold transfer me to another department. I complained loudly and stated that I wanted a warm transfer, that I was on hold over an hour and a half the previous day and didn't want to have to explain myself again to someone else. They got me over to someone that was able to take the order for me. This was the sixteenth and the person was hoping to get an install date of the eighteenth. Well that didn't happen, she got a date of the twenty-second. I used to work for a CLEC and asked for an expedited order. She put me on hold and talked with someone from the escalations department. She came back on the phone said that she was going to connect me and that if they weren't able to expedite that the install would still be prior to 2000 (8:00 PM EDT) on the twenty-second. I spoke with the person from escalations and she said that they were all sent an email from upper management stating explicitly that they were under no circumstances to even ask about expedited orders. I asked if this applied to CLECs as well and she said she wasn't aware of the details.

Now there are a few things through this where AT&T could have done better. There are also some things that should have never happened.

  • When I stated that I tested at the NID and was not receiving sync the technician should have immediately started a trouble ticket and not bothered with trying to walk me through unrelated troubleshooting steps. This is a result of not hiring qualified technicians and/or not allowing technicians to work away from scripts. This not only wastes the customers time but also that of AT&T due to having to spend hours on pointless troubleshooting. This is something that I massively hate to see having worked for a CLEC DSL provider and a web host, but I won't dwell on this further in this article and will leave it for a later post.
  • The order just disappeared from their view, although I could still see it from my account access. How this is possible I have no clue, obviously they have too many disconnected systems that not everything gets updated. The order did update in my account access from having a due date of the eighth to no specified due date at some point after talking to technical support the first time.
  • I should have never been cold transfered and have to provide account information, verify myself or to completely explain everything over again. Only twice through this whole thing did I not have to do this, being transfered about 6-10 times. AT&T needs to revise their internal procedures to better serve their customers and to reduce costs. If a customer has to speak to individuals in a different department and must provide in detail the reason that they are calling to each person they get transfered to, and not just the first, then the company no longer cares about their customers. This is detrimental to the long term viability of a company. Unfortunately companies such as AT&T that more or less have customer loyalty due being the only option in many markets will likely never change due to the mentality of we know what the customer wants better then the customer does. This is seen in other areas and companies as well but I won't comment on them here.
  • At one point I was told that my DSL service was canceled and that there was no transfer order. I was never notified prior to this conversation on the fifteenth that my DSL service was canceled. Never should a service that I'm paying for be canceled without first notifying me, whether it be due to suspected contract violations or inability to properly update your own systems. The customer should always be notified and confirm that termination is going to occur before it actually takes place.

As of my posting this article the DSL service is up and I'm no longer having issues with getting the modem to sync. I'm still not very happy with AT&T and their handling of this situation, or rather lack thereof. I will continue to utilize AT&T's DSL service for the moment, but if anything like this occurs again I will be looking for a new service provider unless they offer me free service for a couple of years at least, which is unlikely to happen.

About the Author

Darrel Clute

I am an IT Infrastructure Architect, with a focus on bridging business needs together with data center usage. I bring a cross functional focus on Network, Security, Virtulization, and UNIX Systems Engineering, trying to bridge the gaps between the disciplines. I am a strong proponent of automation and orchestration, with a focus on using the same toolsets across disciplines. I also advocate for Open Source software use in the enterprise as well as for by individuals.