AT&T Local Phone Service woes

Earlier last week I received a call that had a lot of static. Last Saturday morning I received a few phone calls in the morning, but, later calls started coming through to my mobile phone – busy/ring no-answer forwarding from the house line to my mobile.

That afternoon, I placed a Trouble Ticket with AT&T using their online system. Today, still no dialtone, line is dead at the Network Interface Jack. Attempted to check status yesterday, couldn’t figure out how, reopened a ticket, but, in Chrome, got to last step, told me that session timed out and I needed to reenter. Decided to try again this morning. Again, last step, Session timed out, reenter. Tried in Safari, Session timed out, reenter. The ‘reenter’ link points to a 404.

Called the phone number listed, went through their automated process, it told me there was no problem on the line and it must be my equipment. Went out to the box outside, unplugged the line at the Network Interface Jack again, tested again, left it unplugged. Called in again, it tells me that there is no problem, I must have a phone off the hook, would I like to schedule an $85 service call since I don’t have inside wire maintenance?

Hit 0 for about 2 minutes, kept getting tossed back to the troubleshooting instructions. Called back in, didn’t enter any prompts, got transferred to a person, he said they had no record of last Saturday’s ticket, but, online tickets often get lost. Saw that I entered one through the automated system, said that it would cost $85 to have someone come out. I said, I have the phone line unplugged at the Network Interface Jack, the problem is outside the house.

He said:

“Well, if that isn’t plugged in, you aren’t going to get a dialtone. Would you like us to schedule a call for $85?”

I thought using the automated system would be quicker. I tried to use their IVR system and it told me it wasn’t a fault on their side. I realize not everyone has 20+ years of telecom/datacom experience, but, I have to wonder if the pressure is to get the person to accept it as a billable call then to later sell inside wire maintenance as a way to defray the $85, i.e. sign up for the $4.95/month plan and we won’t bill you the $85, knowing that you’ll be a client for more than 17 months.

The first UX problem is dealing with their Web site. It is not easy to find how to place a trouble ticket for people that know what they need. It does have a lot of helpful information that you need to go through – all troubleshooting that I had already bypassed by checking the Network Interface Jack first. But, finding the link to actually place a ticket takes you to a page where you have to again tell it what type of service, put in the phone number, run through a number of screens where you’re able to enter 160 characters of text to describe the problem, then, if the process is successful I guess it creates a ticket. It is obvious while I was doing it that it did try to reset the line as the line-use indicator did blink a few times right after I entered the number.

But, what takes the cake is the IVR system. There was no way to schedule a ticket without accepting the $85 charge. It did run me through the same tests the online system prescribed, but, you couldn’t proceed without accepting the liability. Additionally, I could not give the phone number I was reporting as the trouble number. Even though the line had a hard fault, calls are transferred to my mobile automatically – allowing me to keep a single phone number to give out for people to contact me. I debated giving my Google Voice number, but, wanted to see how the system worked. The person I spoke to never asked for a contact number.

All in all, I think the customer service experience here from a web usability standpoint needs to be looked at. I tried two modern browsers, and did attempt to use Firefox while writing this and each one ends up with the same problem. I’d bet if I had Internet Explorer it would work.

Remember… customer metrics. Know what pages should be getting hit, know what your expected volumes are. And when you see abnormally low numbers, investigate.


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