What’s Wrong With AT&T (& Everybody Else) [updated]
Unable to go to the gym yesterday, I opted to take a walk in the evening. Set the timer on my phone to alert me after half an hour so I could turn and come back.
About 1 block away I passed this AT&T junction box.
Note: It’s after business hours. No repair crew in sight. Wide open. Wires exposed.
There are people walking up and down the street all day and even in the evenings.
Lots of teenagers.
Lots of animals (there’s a big wash to the right of this photo where coyotes and other wild animals roam).
We’re having windstorms blowing a lot of dust around.
I’m not an AT&T customer, but a lot of my neighbors are, and as I would like somebody to call one of my service providers if they left a vulnerable junction box open to animals / elements / mischief, I decided to call AT&T to tell them they needed to send someone out to close it and lock it (the padlock was missing).
Problem #1: No 1-800-NUMBER to call to report a service problem.
If I were king of the forest, I’d make sure all my untended equipment had both a 1-800 and a URL clearly displayed.
You never know when you might want someone to call you right #%@&ing NOW!!! to let you know you have a problem / potential problem.
There was a 811 number, but that turned out to be just a connection to the city permit office so you wouldn’t accidentally dig up a cable or pipe.
Well, what’s the point of owning a smartphone if you can’t get online from anywhere? I located the AT&T website, and…
Problem #2: No contact info in case you want to report a technical problem to them.
Lotsa links to stuff to buy, lotsa links to upsellers disguised as customer service, but nowhere to click on and tell somebody they have an immediate problem requiring immediate attention.
So I call 411.
It’s completely automated now. Ask for an operator and they just give you the closest equivalent. After requesting technical support and getting an upsell number, or repair (and getting an upsell number), I asked for a human operator…
…and got bupkis.
So I gave up and dialed “O” for operator.
A canned voice, then no pick-up.
So I finally opted to try the main AT&T customer service.
Problem #3: Aren’t these voice operated human emulators amazing? For most simple problems, they can quickly guide your call as needed.
For many problems, however, they don’t have a programmed response. In those cases, we need an actual human being with some knowledge to be on the other end of the line to figure out What Needs To Be Done.
And we the customers are usually savvy enough to know when the problem can be handled by a canned voice and when we actually need a warm twitchy on the other end of the line.
AT&T’s canned responses refused to put me through to a human operator.
Finally I opted for the canned response that came closest to what the problem was.
Waded through a round of upsell options, hollered at the automated voice to connect me with a human being.
Listened to some bad library music.
Finally spoke with a pleasant enough lady. Told her the situation, where the box was located.
She asked me to stay on hold for a moment while she contacted someone.
Now, you might think she was calling the local service crew to send somebody out to lock up their very expensive and very vulnerable junction box.
No, quite the contrary: She was looking for somebody to pass the buck to.
She found a buck recipient and patched me over.
Several more minutes of really bad library music and sporadic upsell options, then the phone was picked up by somebody who actually seemed to appreciate the fact a very expensive AT&T junction box was basically standing on the side of the road with its trousers down around its ankles and unless secured, could possibly inconvenience a couple of hundred (if not thousand) customers.
Took down all the information…
…then patched me over to the local repair team.
Okay, fine. Just get somebody on the line.
Another round of library music (marginally better this time) and upsell announcements, then (finally!) a local service operator also seemed to appreciate how vulnerable AT&T’s very expensive equipment was and promised to send somebody out ASAP.
Fine, just as long as it gets taken care of.
I checked my timer to see how much more time I had left on my walk and saw I’d spent a grand total of 23 minutes just trying to find an AT&T employee who gave as much of a damn as I did as to whether AT&T customers would lose their service to dust or debris or dogs or delinquents.
23 minutes…for something that I should’ve been able to phone in under one minute by simply reading a 1-800-NUMBER on the box.
23 minutes in which AT&T provided no easy access for someone who wanted to make sure their customers weren’t inconvenienced…
…but kept bombarding me with numerous recorded upsell sales pitches.
And therein lies the problem with business in America today.
Once upon a time it was taught in business schools -- hell, it was common #%@&ing SENSE!!! -- that the object of a business was to make money by providing goods and / or services to customers.
Not any more.
Customer comes wanting to buy one thing? Sell ‘em two, even if they don’t need it.
Especially if they don’t need it.
Customer comes with a problem? Avoid addressing the problem, try to sell ‘em something.
Customer has a problem and gets past the first line of upsellers? Throw another one at ‘em…and another…and another…
…until they buy…
…or quit in frustration.
CEOs punish employees who try to help customers, reward (with paltry incentives) those who find a way of sucking more cash from their pockets.
And the CEOs take that money and pay themselves huge salaries / huge dividends / huge profits / huge bonuses.
Edward Whitacre Jr. couldn’t care less if hundreds of customers are suddenly deprived of AT&T’s services; what are they gonna do? He couldn’t care less if somebody wants to help AT&T by forestalling a problem for those customers; if it doesn’t involve selling more crap, who gives a rat’s patoot?
If you want to know why customer service is so shitty, it’s because they think you are shit.
And they have no financial incentive to change because they’ve seen that the laws are written to make them invulnerable to customer pressure.
Want to change business ATTitudes, change business laws.
P.S. For those who ask, “Well, if you were so concerned why didn’t you close the junction box?” the answer is if some anusoid came by after I closed it, saw it was unlocked, and decided to open it and rip out a few handfuls of wires on a lark -- #%@&ing with a telephone junction box being a #%@&ing Federal offense! -- I’ve got better things to do with my time than spend it with FBI agents, trying to explain why my fingerprints were on AT&T’s equipment.