Bricks & Mortar Be Damned

socmedsupportOr… How I learned to love corporate twitter accounts thanks to AT&T Customer Care.

It’s been a gruesome few months for me with a ruptured disk, a sudden house purchase, and a whirlwind of events that I promise to share in the days to come.  In the meantime, I thought it best to kick-off the blog’s re-inauguration with some useful advice:

Do you need technical support? Or maybe your car, or phone lines, or cable, or internet, any item in your household needs service.  Maybe, like my recent experience, you need to move so you phone your provider — be it electric, gas, or in this case: internet & TV.

Don’t waste your time.  Bricks & mortar support is dead and buried under an army of technical support robots who can’t think for themselves, refuse to go off script, and will happily repeat what they last said because apparently. We, the consumers, are idiots.

But not so on the InterTubes!  Those corporate twitter accounts aren’t (believe it or not) run by robots. The social media departments actually give a damn, want you to have a great experience, and… if you wouldn’t mind, share your experience so others know that yes, Virginia, amongst the robots dwells somebody who will treat you with respect and dignity.

When we initiated our move last month from one part of Houston to another, we decided to stick with AT&T UVerse.  Sure, we’d prefer another option to the Koch Bros’ evil empire, but based off how notoriously poor their upload/download speeds were, we had no choice.  We called AT&T to arrange for having our service moved from one location to another.  Of course they were happy to help us.  They wanted to keep our money.  We booked July 3rd, went back to packing, and signing (over 1,000 pages when we closed the house, geesh).

On/around July 1st, my smart husband contacted AT&T to confirm the July 3rd transfer date.  Apparently, they’d decided on their own to cancel the transfer because the seller hadn’t closed down his account yet.

Since I work at home (writer and online teacher that I am), this was not good news.  It meant a week of having to bop back and forth between the old home and the new. I accepted the situation, willing to cut AT&T some slack since yes, it made sense — sort of.  The seller was already out of the house.  He’d already canceled his account. But apparently AT&T needed a wider window.  Fine.

So we set up July 10th, the following Thursday (even though Houston is a big city, apparently AT&T will only come out to this area once a week).  Sometime between 9 and 11 am. Fine. I wait. Eager to get things moving forward. I’ve got a ruptured disk screaming for attention, but hey… It’s the InterTubes!  They’ll be here and gone by 11am. No problem. I can wait.

The time comes and goes. No AT&T. I figure they’re backed up, but I’d call just in case.  I’ll spare you the details, but AT&T’s customer service phone rep told me they’d canceled (again and again, didn’t bother to let us know) having someone come out because our house doesn’t exist.  I tried using logic with her (how could the previous owner have an account here then? how could I have signed over 1,000 pages with this address on it if my home didn’t exist?).  Suffice it to say, I demanded to talk to her supervisor. After being kept on hold for 20 minutes, I did talk to someone who, when I insisted we did indeed exist, hung up on me.

Sweet, huh?

I called again, was again put on hold, so this time, I took a chance and posted this to my twitter account:

In the meantime, my husband got on the AT&T text support chat and was given a runaround that made my phone calls look like a walk in the park.  Between the two of us,  the support personnel behaved as if we were clueless, didn’t know our home’s address, and… Sure, they’d be happy to reschedule. For two weeks from the scheduled date. “NO!!!!” was our chorus cry and so we began the earnest search for another option. If we were going to ‘fire” AT&T, we were going to go all the way – cancel our UVerse package, switch all of our family’s phones over to Sprint, and tell AT&T to kiss goodbye to the nearly $7,000 they made from us each year. I tried calling AT&T again. While on hold for the umpteenth time, I took a peek at Twitter and got this:

Shocked that a corporate twitter handler actually gave a damn, I immediately responded.   Ray — AT&T’s social media guy — got my phone number, called me, and throughout the day pushed that rock up the hill, all the while refusing to be Sisyphus. He was going to get us service within 24 hours.  Whatever it took. He found out why they claimed our home didn’t exist: Apparently having a ‘drive’ instead of a ‘street’ makes the AT&T database spit out enough gibberish to make HAL look like a saint.  He pushed beyond that nonsense, rallied the forces, and yes…

Twenty-four hours later, we had internet.

So… To all the social media corporate workers out there.  You are the real heroes.  Here’s to all the Rays and Raynas out there.

We’ve had other bouts of bad luck with other companies and their phone support since then.  US Airways insists that the 1-stop flight I’m taking to Baltimore (next week for Shore Leave) cannot be changed so I get off and stay off at the in-between stop in Philly (a friend has offered to drive me the rest of the way).  And from reading tech journalist Ryan Block’s account on how he had to shame Comcast (see: CNN’s When Life Gives You Comcast, Make A Shamecast), I can see we’re not alone.  I recognize how grueling it can be to deal with phone call after phone call from cranky customers, but seriously, folks — use your brains. Deviate from that script and be critical thinkers.

You might actually help customer loyalty.

In the case of AT&T, if it wasn’t for Ray, we would be long gone and using Sprint, DishTV, and god knows what else.





About diana 118 Articles
SF Writer. Screenwriting Professor. Insanity ensues day and night. Science Fiction is my wheelhouse.