Evening of March 1, 2011
I’m a computer nerd, and as such, I need an always-on internet connection so I can play my Xbox 360 with my friends, update this blog, and maybe even socialize with other carbon-based lifeforms on Facebook and Twitter. Being in a bit of a cash crunch these past few months had forced me to give up the sweet sweet nectar of broadband, and now that my cashflow is positive again, I decided to get back “on the grid.”
Sadly, I, and most other folks in San Antonio are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to high-speed internet service. On one side is Time Warner Cable. Their RoadRunner service is awesomesauce, but they have a bad habit of sucking folks in with a low promotional rate and then frakking them over once the promo is up. On the other side is AT&T. Maw Bell has lower overall prices with a little bit less of the promo baloney, but the technological limitations of DSL make it slower than cable.
If you’re lucky you might be able to get Uverse from AT&T, or high speed from Grande Communications. If you’re really lucky Verizon is in your neighborhood with some freaky-fast FIOS.
Since cutting the cord, I’d been making do with my Sprint Overdrive. It works fine, but it just wasn’t meant to be always-on. Also, having to MacGuyver my Xbox 360 to go online using my Overdrive, my laptop and a crossover cable was a pain in the neck whenever I needed to review Xbox Live games or just wanted to check out game demos. A recent 4G outage made this panda less than happy with Sprint, so I figured it was time to once again taste the ambrosia that is wired broadband.
I decided to go with AT&T because they were less expensive, and cutting costs is a priority right now. They were offering what appeared to be a pretty good deal on their website, and so I decided to sign up for their best plan which was $25 a month. Groovy pants. I still had my old DSL modem, so I opted for the self-install.
Now, the way it worked last time (a few years ago) was that The Telephone Man did his thing outside on some unknown day and all I had to do was plug in my modem, adjust some settings, and BAM, internets! Thus, already knowing what was supposed to happen, I eagerly dug out my modem and eagerly waited for March 1st to come. I went to work that morning and looked forward to being ‘on the grid’ once again.
My job is answering phones so I can’t really answer my cell. I checked my voicemail during lunch and two conflicting messages there: one proclaiming my DSL installed and providing me with instructions on how to set up my modem, and a second from what appeared to be an AT&T tech that was coming to my house. I was confused, because I didn’t think anyone was coming. More importantly, I was not TOLD anyone was coming. I figured the tech guy would do whatever it was he needed to do outside and all would be well.
I arrived home after work foaming at the mouth to set up my new connection. I read the instructions that the earlier phone message directed me to and got stuck at a certain point. The “DSL” light on my phone never turned green; instead it flashed red as I wondered what was going on.
After about a half hour of puttering around with wires and turning the modem on and off multiple times, I decided to bite the bullet and call the AT&T support line. This had happened the last time I did a self-install, and I had been very impressed with the guys on the other side of the line before.
AT&T’s automated system is apparently based on the phone number being associated with the account, so my first call went around in circle or two before I hung up and tried again. Note to whoever developed these stupid “talk to me” IVRs: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH PUSHING BUTTONS. BUTTONS WORK JUST FINE. Having to wait for the stupid computer to figure out what I had just said only served to aggrivate me more, so I hung up, called back and just said “Operator.”
I was not inspired by what I got when the phone jockey on the other end picked up. I could easily hear the phone reps talking very loudly to each other, and the person that picked up didn’t seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer either. I had a futile conversation with him as I tried to explain that this was supposed to be a self install and I didn’t know someone was supposed to be coming to my apartment. He chose to ignore that important piece of info and told me that “if the light doesn’t turn green by tomorrow morning, call us back so we can reschedule.” Yeah, and you’ll be off your shift by then, jerkass.
Despite being pretty bent out of shape, I didn’t feel like arguing with the guy, so I hung up. It says something about the level of service I received that I wished I had gotten someone in India. Sure, those folks can be hard to understand at times, but at least they’re usually polite. The call wouldn’t bother me so much but I’ve done phone work myself (hell, I’m doing it now) so I know how not to treat customers.
I shot off a pretty angry tweet, and then had dinner and did some other things. I figured I’d call back in the morning in the hope of getting someone that had two brain cells in their head to rub together. Much to my surprise, I discovered later in the evening that an AT&T rep had seen my tweet and was asking if he could help:
I was genuinely shocked, because that was the last thing I was honestly expecting. Would the power of social media succeed where traditional customer service had failed? We shall see!