I have always had problems with At&T which is one of the main reasons I refuse to buy an iPhone. My experience with AT&T has always been poor and I should have listened to my instincts but when presented with the possibilities of AT&T U-Verse, their IPTV technology, I was curious. For the most part U-Verse would appear to be a nice alternative to traditional Comcast and although I had no issues with Comcast cable their internet service was less than optimal in my area so I made the switch.
AT&T spent 2 full day’s rewiring stuff, the anticipation was mounting and finally we had light – a picture – a nice high-definition picture that really brought out to my wife why we needed a 62 inch HDTV. Everything was fine for about 2 days but then the problems started, first certain channels would periodically report that we were not subscribed and then later they would automagically work, the television would freeze for several minutes at a time, and many of the features I had become accustomed to with Comcast were unavailable, such as being able to set a reminder for a future show. I mentioned this to the CISO at AT&T and he said “yeah, but can’t you just record on the DVR instead?” uhhhh no I don’t want to record everything I want to decide what I will watch at 10pm when 10pm rolls around, btw the set top boxes are running a crappy insecure version of Windows CE, but here nor there….fast-forward about a month and AT&T U-verse is virtually unwatchable, I can barely get through an hour of television without the picture freezing for 5-10 minutes at a time and we do not even watch that much TV, of course we also use the internet service and it as well experiences similar issues. So in short AT&T U-verse is not ready for prime-time.
Now that in and of itself is not a deal breaker for me. It is a new service, I understand that, I had similar issues with Comcast when they first offered digital TV, but the deal breaker is AT&T support. AT&T customer service/support is beyond poor, it is the worst service I have ever received in my life, the telecom equivalent of customer service at a fast-food restaurant staffed by jaded, hip-hop youth convinced of their own self-importance as they trudge through your order rubbing their Gangsta tatto’s and periodically pulling up their baggy jeans. This isn’t about the people that work in AT&T support though this is about the technology they use, one of those automated interactive support recordings that push one to the limits of maddening frustration. Let me give you an example…
AT&T: Welcome to AT&T although some of our business offices are closed we are available to you 24×7 for technical support, you can continue here for technical support or to use our automated system. I see your calling from <phone number> is that the phone number on the account you are calling about?
AT&T: Sorry I didn’t hear you, please say yes or no? I got <phone number> is this the number you are calling about
AT&T: Sorry our offices are closed please try your call again later
OK so I try again…this time I decide not to use my phone number and say no I don’t have one
AT&T: OK, please enter the phone number you are calling about or say I don’t have one
Me: I don’t have one
AT&T: Sorry I didn’t hear you? Please tell me the phone number you are calling from or say I don’t have one
Me: I DON’T HAVE ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AT&T: I am sorry I am having so much trouble hearing you please tell me the phone number you are calling from or say I don’t have one or for more information please say help?
AT&T: It will be easier for me to help you if you tell me the phone number on your account? If you do not have an AT&T account and would like one please say “I don’t have one”?
Me: I don’t have one
AT&T: Ok to continue I need to know where you are calling from, let’s try something else please say the zip code where you would like service
Me: <zip code>
AT&T: OK let me make sure I heard you correctly? Did you say <zip code>?
AT&T: OK, now please say just your street addess or rural route number, for example 123 main street west
Me: <street address>
AT&T: Sorry I didn’t understand, can you please repeat your address?
Me: <street address>
AT&T: I am sorry I am having problems hearing you let’s try something else (then all of a sudden) this office is closed <hangs up>
Me: OMG WTF?
I give it yet another go because SF is playing NY and I really want to watch the game…I make it to the address portion again.
AT&T: Let me make sure I have it right (he does) is that correct?
AT&T: I am sorry I am having trouble understanding your address, let’s move on. In a few words I need to know why you are calling today? You can say things like I need to know my account balance, order new phone service or report a problem. If you would like to get to an agent say agent.
AT&T: Sorry I didn’t hear you
AT&T: OK If you need to talk to an agent I will need to understand what you are calling about, please say what you are calling about, you can say things like order new service or repairs
AT&T: It sounds like you would like to make a repair is that correct?
AT&T: OK it sounds like you are calling to repair your DISH TV service is that correct?
AT&T: OK are you calling about your phone, internet, or television you can also say none of those
Me: None of those
AT&T: I am sorry I am having trouble hearing you can you please tell me why you are calling today
AT&T: OK I will transfer you now…
AT&T <busy signal>
So I call yet again and make it to the requesting an agent part…
AT&T: All agents are busy please cotinue to hold and someone will be with you shortly (this went on for about 20 minutes and I finally hung up)
AT&T support is so bad I was forced to cancel service and move back to Comcast, here is the call I made on a Sunday morning…
Comcast: Thank-you for calling Comcast, blah, blah, blah, please enter the phone number you have or would like service
Me: <phone number>
Comcast: Good afternoon, thank-you for calling Comcast, my name is Christina, how may I help you today
Me: Wow a real person, thank-you for working today…
And with that I switched service in about 5 minutes.
Now here is the thing I can tolerate problems with technology, I can understand that my TV will freeze or my internet access is less than reliable, but piss poor customer service is a deal-breaker it is why I hated AT&T to begin with and quite honestly is the root of all things wrong with our society.
EDIT: Apparently there are a lot of people experiencing the exact same issues and many are deciding to avoid AT&T or switch back to their old service provider (here), (here), (here), (here), and (here). I am sure there are many, many, many, many more…even Shimmy has taken issue with AT&T support, although for different reasons (here). It is baffling to me that a company the size of AT&T with the resources at it’s disposal is experiencing the same issues as a mom and pop ISP – sad!