Customer Disservice: AT&T

AT&TI am constantly amazed at how difficult some companies make it for their customers to deal with them. I understand why companies use automated answering systems. In fact, there are many occasions when I am glad that companies use automated answering systems. For example, if I want to know the balance on my account or whether a company received my last payment, I like the convenience of being able to find out that information without having to talk to a real person.

What I cannot stand, however, is when companies use automated answering systems in a stupid manner. Recently we had a telephone line at a house that we owned that we were renovating. We reached the point where we wanted to cancel the telephone service.

When I obtained the service, I was able to do so by signing up over the internet. When I wanted to disconnect, however, I had to call my provider. I had no ability to disconnect the service without speaking to a real person. Fine, that annoys me, but I understand why they do it.

So I pick up the phone and call AT&T, f/k/a SBC, f/k/a Ameritech, f/k/a Illinois Bell. The first thing that the automated system requests is my telephone number. This is not a wholly unreasonable request. After a couple of prompts I am told the current status of my account, when the last payment was made, etc. Based upon this, I know that the system has now pulled up my account records.

I then get transferred to a live person, who can finally disconnect my phone service. Of course, as soon as she picks up the line, she asks me for my phone number. WTF?

I have already given them my phone number. AT&T has already accessed and pulled up my account records, but the live person that I finally reach cannot help me until I again give her my telephone number.

What idiot created this system? It’s bad enough that I have to slog through the automated answering service and talk to a person to disconnect my service anyway, why does AT&T deliberately make the entire customer service process unfriendly and difficult?

It was customer service issues like these that caused me to entirely abandon AT&T (then SBC) in December 2003 when I switched to Comcast for my internet service and Vonage for my telephone service.

Given that the poor customer service in trying to cancel the service was just one of several bad experiences that I had during just the few months I was working with AT&T, this most recent experience convinced me that I had made the absolutely correct decision to leave AT&T behind.