Friday, January 11, 2008

Why I'm Hating AT&T

As I've mentioned in the ShoutBox, AT&T has completely messed up my DSL order. At this point, the company's incompetence has reached a level that I feel I need to take it to another level. Hence this blog post and planned letters to the editor in my area newspapers. A brief summary:

A few days before 12/31/2007: I attempt to switch my AT&T service from my current address to my new address. Their website says that they will waive the transfer fee if I use the online tools. I attempt to use their online tools using two different browsers (Firefox and IE for Windows), but the process will not let me get past one step. I call AT&T to transfer service and ask if they will waive the transfer fee since I attempted to use their online tools and they did not work. They agree. We schedule transfer for both DSL and home phone server for 12/31. I am told there will be 2-4 hours of downtime. I let customers and co-workers know that I will be down that day (I work from home) and give them an emergency contact number.

12/29/2007: We move out of the old place and into the new place

12/31/2007 (early AM... possibly midnight): Phone service goes dead. DSL is still active.

12/31/2007 (12:30 PM): Doorbell rings at our new place. It is the service rep to set up the phone line. I ask about DSL. He says checks and says that typically they do DSL on a separate day, but that my order got put in at the same time so that it should be working. He gives me a contact number in case there are problems.

12/31/2007 (later that day): I bring my DSL equipment to our new place only to find out that the DSL is not working. At this point, phone service is at our new place, DSL is at our old place. I call up AT&T and they tell me that DSL service will not be transfered until Friday 1/4/2008. Annoying, but we have the old place until 1/7/2008 so not a huge deal. I bring the DSL equipment back to the old place.

1/2/2008: DSL goes dead at the old place. I assume that things went quicker than they promised and bring the DSL equipment back to the new place. I plug it in - no dice. I call AT&T and they tell me that they have disconnected it at the old place and that it is scheduled to come back up on Friday, 1/4/2008. I explain that I work at home and that this does not work for me. She says that she will try to expedite it and says that it will be late Thursday or early Friday. I am not happy, but figure it is the best I can do. In the process, we realize that the current orders were in to turn it back on at our old place instead of our new place. I explain that it needs to go to our new place and assume that come Friday morning at the latest I will have my DSL service.

1/4/2008 (morning): There is a big storm in the area that knocks out our power. I assume that the DSL should be on (after all, they just have to "flip a switch", right?).

1/4/2008 (afternoon): I head over to our old place to help my wife and mother-in-law clean. While there, UPS shows up with a DSL modem. I'm worried. I should not be getting a DSL modem, especially at my old place. We finish cleaning (my wife and mother-in-law did 99% of the work - you're the best!). The apartment is now completely clean. The only reason for us going back into the apartment is to show it to the apartment manager on 1/7/2008 to get our deposit back.

1/4/2008 (later that afternoon): I come back to our new place, plug in the DSL equipment and get nothing. I call AT&T. They are in the process of turning DSL on at our old place! I explain how this is not acceptable because I work at home and was originally told 2-4 hours of downtime and that we went over the address issue on Wednesday. I explain that I can not set things back up in the apartment because it is clean. They tell me that I will have to wait until Wednesday, 1/9/2008. They offer to put in a note to credit me the DSL setup fee (which I was not aware I would be charged on a *transfer* anyway) as well as one month of phone and DSL service. I am not happy, but I know that the person was doing the best that they personally could, so I continue pressing on. I am told to return the DSL modem at their expense so that I am not charged for it. They are also marking my order "urgent" to try to speed things up. I have since learned that "urgent" on an order must mean either "treat as any other order" or "take extra time with this order".

1/9/2008: Today should be the day! I plug in my DSL equipment. Still nothing. I call AT&T. What are they doing today? They're DISCONNECTING the service from our old place. Because I foolishly decided that I wanted to keep my old phone number since I was just moving across town and didn't want to have to update my phone number everywhere, it takes longer. I am presented with a choice: change my phone number and I can get DSL on 1/14/2008 or keep my phone number and I can get DSL on 1/16/2008. I decide to keep my phone number and they put in a credit (instead of just a note) for the DSL activation fee plus two months of DSL service. I explain that I am not happy, but believe that she has given me the fairest shake that she personally can give me.

1/10/2008: AT&T decides to block me from sending mail through my non-AT&T e-mail servers. I call AT&T to explain to them that I can't wait any longer. I need the DSL on now. I've been down and now they're just kicking me while I'm down by not allowing me to send through my non-AT&T e-mail servers. I talk to a DSL customer care specialist (there are only a few and they're normally busy). He explains to me as other have before that the system takes a few days to catch up with itself. That is, the schedule has gone like this: Issue disconnect order, wait a few days for the system to catch up with itself, issue connect order for wrong address, wait a few days for the system to catch up with itself, issue a disconnect order, wait a few days for the system to catch up with itself, issue a connect order and three to five days later it will be up. This means that the fastest AT&T claims it can transfer DSL service is about one week. If they mess once, it could be as long as two weeks. The system WILL NOT ALLOW THEM to put in my order because it still thinks my DSL is on at our old place... even though it isn't. They assure me that it is a computer problem and not a paperwork problem. The DSL guy says that he will put a task in Outlook and check every few hours for the system to recognize that my service is disconnected. Once it does, he will put in my order to get it kicked off as soon as possible. As soon as possible meaning sometime between Wednesday, 1/16/2008 and Friday 1/18/2008. I explain that I wish to speak with a manager, will be researching cable internet, and will be posting about this, etc. He says that the managers are all in a conference, but that one can give me a call back on Monday, 1/14/2008. To keep me as a loyal customer, he offers to talk to his manager, etc. about giving me a free year of the next highest speed DSL (a $120 value).

1/10/2008 (after the phone call): The same AT&T service rep that installed my phone line shows up. He is here to put in our second line. (We had them transferred on separate days to make sure we had one line working.) He asks about the DSL. I tell him what is up. He agrees with me (and the customer care reps that I have talked to) that AT&T has messed up. He gives me his contact information as well as his manager's contact information. He explains to me that the managers are all in conference due to the previous Friday's storm and that he can not even reach his manager now. He checks to see if the DSL order is in the system, but can not access it yet because of the problem with the system catching up with itself. He says to give him a call when the order goes in and he will see what he can do to expedite it.

1/10/2008 (after the meeting with the service rep): I call AT&T tech support to go over my issue with being able to send e-mail. After talking through 3 or 4 levels of tech support, they say that I should just send it through their servers. This solution, while it technically works, doesn't work for me. Because I control my company's mail server, I am able to make things work.

At this point, I have basically lost 6 business days due to this issue. I figure out of the last 7 business days plus weekends, I have cranked out one or two business days worth of work. AT&T is a perfect example of what happens when a company gets too big and stops caring about its customers.

Note 1: This is not against any of the employees of AT&T. The individual employees of AT&T, while they may have messed up, have appeared to try to do what they can do in their power to make me happy. It appears the system is messed up given the turn-around time. AT&T needs to be able to fix things quickly when it is their fault. It also appears they need better training for their employees. Without mentioning names, the DSL specialist I talked to on 1/10/2008 and the service rep who has set up phone service stand out as going above and beyond their job in an effort to help me out and for that I am very appreciative. In my book (assuming they make things happen like I believe they will), they deserve a bonus or raise.

Note 2: Those connected with AT&T may claim that the 2-4 hour downtime was only supposed to be for the phone line. DSL takes at least 3 days. While this may be true, (1) I was only told 2-4 hours and (2) the phone service alone was down more than 2-4 hours.

Update 1: See AT&T Update

Update 2: See AT&T DSL Is Back Up!


Nomad said...

You may find interesting. You are not alone with having AT&T DSL issues.

Ward said...

I really do feel for you. Ever since AT&T bought Cingular, it has gone from the best phone service to the absolute worst.

Sean said...

at my old job we had at&t dsl service. the biggest problem for us was that whenever there was a problem you had to go through att who would then allow you to talk with the subcontractor that actually manages the dsl. very inefficient.

i hope that everything gets worked out asap for you wedge.

"Nick" said...

Funny, when I did the switch (which didn't involve keeping the same phone number, we moved to far) I had no trouble. It was maybe a day or so. I did have an issue with connecting, but it turned out to be a problem with my jack...

I definitely feel for you. Keep us up to date on what happens...

Nomad said...

Check out the link that I left. From what my other friend learned, AT&T looks like a monolith but is actually a series of interconnected fiefdoms. If you move within one unit, few problems are seen. But when you move between fiefdoms, it is a nightmare because each unit has its own computer systems and they don't all talk cleanly.

quizwedge said...

I moved a couple miles away, so I should be in the same system... they've told me that keeping my number is part of the problem and that the fact that there hasn't been DSL set up in our new place before is another part of the problem. That and their incompetence.

Suricou Raven said...

I work in networking (Or did, I was on a fixed-term contract and it ended at the end of december). I know a bit about the internals of DSL. The root technical changes needed are, in essence, trivial. If your address change were being handed by one individual with a knowledge of the network and all the keys and passwords, the transfer process would take... oh, five or ten minutes.

Every second on top of that ten minutes is pure burocratic overhead - a sign of a poorly-designed ticketing and queueing system.

They mention keeping your number is a problem. That probably means you are on a different exchange. Routing between exchanges isn't at all difficult, but it does require that a small change is made at each end... simutainously. It takes inter-staff coordination. And I suspect that AT&T has been set up in such a way that the staff never communicate directly, they only exchange tickets and work requests. Thus its not possible for technician A to call B and say 'Customer wants to move, could you quickly add that line to the VC table and link it onto the backbone?' instead A has to file a ticket that enters the queue to be send to the other exchance to enter the queue for technician attention... and if anything goes wrong, it has to go back the same way.

quizwedge said...

Suricou, welcome! Thanks for your informative post. I just posted the resolution. If AT&T worked as you and I both think it should (techs being able to talk to each other, getting rid of burocratic overhead), I have no doubt that AT&T would be able to reform its reputation.