October 21, 2006

This call may be blogged for quality assurance purposes

Time, 16:15.

I call 1-800-310-2355.

AT&T recorded man's voice: Welcome to AT&T Customer Service.

AT&T recorded woman's voice: Para continuar en espanol, oprima el uno.

(pause)

AT&T recorded man's voice: The AT&T family of companies may have lower prices and special offers available exclusively online. Visit A T T dot com for details.

(pause)

I'm here to get you to the right place. To get started, I need to get your phone number. The number I got for you from Caller ID is: 8-5-8-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x. Is that the number you're calling about today?

[#]

AT&T: Sorry, I can't tell whether you said yes or no. To hear that number again, say, repeat that.

[#]

AT&T: Sorry, I still can't tell whether you said yes or no. When you called, I collected the number 8-5-8-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x from Caller ID. Is this the account you're calling about?

What you need to understand is that the number AT&T claims it obtained via Caller ID is not the number I was calling from. This made me wonder all kinds of things. Like, whose number does AT&T think I'm calling from, and why does it think I'm calling from that number? I mean, what broke? What bug in the AT&T infrastructure caused it to make such a fundamental mistake? And, how often, I wonder, when I call people, does Caller ID issue the wrong number out to people I'm calling?

This is what I was thinking, and wanting to ask. But I was dealing with a voicebot, probably a TellMe[tm] brand of voicebot. So I decided to mess with its head and see where it would go. I pressed # again.

[#]

AT&T: So that I can direct you to the right place, I need the phone number you're calling about. When you called into this system, I collected the phone number you're calling from in Caller ID. Is this the phone number account you're––

[#]

AT&T: Okay. In a few words, I need to know why you're calling today. You can say things like, "I'd like to pay my bill!" or "I want new phone service!". So. Go ahead. Tell me the purpose of your call.

[#]

AT&T: Sorry, I didn't catch that. Tell me why you're calling today in a few words, like, "I need to move my phone service." Okay. Go ahead!

[#]

AT&T: Let's try this another way. I'll list your four options, simply choose the best one. If you're calling about your bill, your account balance, say, "billing" or press 1. To add, change, or cancel services, say ––

[#]

AT&T: So that I can send your call to the best place, I need to know the general reason for your call. For any questions about your bill, or billing concerns, or, if you'd like to make a payment, or get other––

[#]

AT&T: If you're calling about your bill, your account balance, or payments, say, "billing", or press 1.

. . .

[#]

AT&T: Is that correct? Say yes or no

[#]

AT&T: Please say yes or no

[*]

AT&T: I'm sorry, I didn't understand. Please say the word yes or no.

[#]

(pause)

AT&T: Okay. What can we do for you today? Please tell us the nature of your call.

[#]

AT&T: I'm sorry, I did not understand.

[#]

AT&T: I'm sorry---

[#]

AT&T: I'm––

[#]

AT&T: I still don't know what--

[#]

AT&T: I still--

[#]

(pause)

AT&T: Okay, can you tell me why you're calling--

[#]

AT&T: Okay . . . is this . . . a business call?

[#]

(long pause)

AT&T: [in a rather dejected tone] I'm sorry I'm having so much trouble.

(real long pause)

Time: around 16:20

AT&T woman's recorded voice: For quality assurance your call may be monitored or recorded. If you do not wish to be monitored or recorded, please inform your AT&T customer service representative.

[Begin cheesy muzak featuring corporate perky piano lite pop elevator Late 70s or maybe early 80s ABC After School Special style with the occasional Kenny G saxophone treatment added in]

AT&T woman's recorded voice: All customer service people are busy.

[Muzak continues]

AT&T woman's recorded voice: Thank you for continuing to hold. Your call is very important to us. A representative will be with you shortly.

[Muzak continues]

AT&T human: Hello, this is [insert random name of tired, wanna-go-home AT&T employee, or outsourced telecenter cubedweller working on behalf of AT&T], how can I help you?

Me: I'm calling to check on the status of the phone line I ordered for my business. I ordered it a few days ago via the AT&T or SBC website, and it is not clear whether the order went through. First of all, the website sent an order confirmation email to me stating that the unit cost of adding a single business line was zero dollars and zero cents, and that the total price of the order was also zero dollars and zero cents. Somehow I don't think that's the case.

AT&T human: Heh heh heh. Probably not.

Me: Well the main thing is, I'd like to know if this order actually went through or not, and when we can expect a phone person to show up and install the phone line.

AT&T human: Let me look you up in our records.

(long pause) AT&T human: Sorry, our system is really slow right now. It's been slow all day.

(long pause)

Don't know what's wrong

One moment

Have you noticed how customer service representatives everywhere, no matter whether it's a telephone company, a car rental company, a hotel reservation desk, an airline rep, no matter what, is always talking about how slow their systems are? Did everyone switch over to web-based interfaces or something?

(5 minutes of silence)

AT&T human: Ok what I am going to do for you is transfer you over to one of our senior specialists. Due to the nature of your order we cannot check on the details of your order, we need to have you call another department.

Me: B-but, I'm only ordering a phone line, nothing fancy.

AT&T human: Let me transfer you over to one of our senior specialists who can check on that. And if we get disconnected, lemme give you the number to call: 1-800-310-2355.

Nooooooooooooooooooo! Wait! That's the number I called in the first place! Waaaaaaaaiiiiiitttttt!

[click] [silence] [cheesy muzak] AT&T woman's voice with mildly-Texas accent: Thank you for continuing to hold. Your call is very important to us. A representative will be with you shortly.

Time: 16:25.

[cheesy perky muzak continues]

AT&T woman again: Thank you for continuing to hold. Your call is very important to us. A representative will be with you shortly.

[back to cheesy muzak]

Time: 16:26.

A pattern emerges. 59 seconds of muzak. Then the recorded voice. Then back to the muzak. Minutes go by.

Time: 16:39

[Still listening to cheesy muzak and then being told how my call is very important to them.]

At this point I hang up. And call 1-800-310-2355 all over again.

Time: 16:40.

AT&T recording: Welcome to AT&T Customer Service. Para Espanol omprima etc etc etc.

[pause]

Okay. In a few words I need to know why you're calling today. You can say--

Me: AGENT!

AT&T: One moment while I connect you . . .

[pause] For quality assurance your call me be monitored or recorded. If you do not wish . . .

How can things get so bad, I wonder.

Posted by brian at October 21, 2006 12:48 PM

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