Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tempting Fate

I'm probably jinxing this, but Uverse service has been restored finally. Thanks to Dan Feldstein, formerly of the Chronicle, who is now doing public relations work for AT&T, who read my blog entries and was kind enough to cut through the red tape and get the area service manager Heath Powers involved. Heath emailed me personally and arranged to come along with the Technician (Van was his first name, damned if I can remember his last name. Sorry dude.) and ride herd on the call. After discovering that the crew that had been dispatched to disconnect the DSL, in combination with the Tier II/OMA support group that had rewritten the order in an effort to get things moving again, had inadvertently caused the assigned port in the local node to be overwritten, instead of being on port 32, I was on port 35. Because the MAC address of the boxes had been mapped in the system to the old port, the system was refusing send data to the boxes because they were connected to the wrong port. All of the boxes had to be swapped with new ones so that the MAC addresses would be new.

I want to make it clear that throughout this process, by and large most everyone (with a couple glaring exceptions) have tried to be as helpful as they could be, but the problems they faced are endemic to the system and the corporate structure.

Here are the problems as I see them from my position outside the corporate structure. I hope that themanagers and corporate people that are reading this as a result of Dan taking notice, read this with the understanding that it is intended to be constructive criticism. It is hoped that some lessons are learned from this and service is improved in the future as a result.

  1. A lack of communication. Let's face it, AT&T is supposed to be a communications company, but communications between departments and groups within AT&T, as well as communication with the customer is sorely lacking. All of the disparate groups involved with this order (and there were at least 5 different groups involved at one point or another.) utterly failed to communicate and hand-off smoothly with each other. They also failed to keep me appraised of developments with the order. On several occasions, technicians who needed access to my back yard were dispatched without notification to me, so I was unable to arrange to make sure my dogs were safely put away. As a result of the failure to notify me, those technicians were unable to complete their order tickets. Also on at least two occasions, service appointments were not kept and no notification that the technician was not coming was made, causing me to take time off from work to wait on or prepare for a technician that was not coming. Numerous promised callbacks failed to occur (but some did).
  2. Visibility. No department or group could see into the computer systems of the other groups so that they could anticipate what steps they might need to take or be able to tell what is being done by other parties that might interfere with what they are doing. As a result, there were several instances of one support person trying to do something that was at cross-purposes to what another group was trying to do. I do not think anyone was intentionally trying to throw monkey wrenches into the works. I truly believe that most everyone I was working with was trying to help, but being unaware of what was going on, they inadvertently caused the system to hang up when conflicting orders and changes were introduced into the system.
  3. Manpower. The fact that even an uncomplicated order takes a minimum of a month to complete is frankly abysmal. I cannot personally speak to Comcast, but I know Time-Warner, Comcast's predecessor, could generally complete an order for new service within a few days to a week at most. Now granted, uptime was poor and the time required for a service call to processed was long, and the cost wasn't exactly cheap either. But new service orders were prioritized because they realized that today they are campaigning, tomorrow you vote. Or to rephrase, you do not get a second chance at a first impression. Prompt and painless installation is an ideal first impression. That is 180 degrees opposite of what I experienced. It seems evident that not enough technicians were tasked with installing too many orders. Now I understand that to an extent, having too much business is a nice problem to have in most cases, but at some point you have to recognize that you are losing potential business to your competition when your competition can run circles around your delivery schedule.
  4. Teamwork and Empowerment. All of the groups that I interfaced with in getting this order completed were islands of assistance instead of being members of a support team. Me as a customer should not know nor should I have to care which group I was talking to. Getting some or all of the different players working together was a lost cause in many cases. There was a lot of "throwing it over the wall" going on. Sure they called the department involved and handed me off to them, but they promptly left to go help somebody else and washed their hands of me when they did. I got tossed over the wall. Each different department was very clear on the hard limits of their responsibilities and abilities. Flexibility and cross-training was apparently non-existent.
Now for something that I have learned:
  1. Frustration is sometimes counterproductive. I am not a patient person by nature. I do not like not knowing what is happening. I especially do not like dealing with people tasked with customer support who are not empowered to actually solve the problem. I tend to be the sort of person who, when confronted with a brick wall, will go around, over, under, or through the wall. Frustration tends to feed into that mentality. I become obsessed with the wall. My entire existance contracts to the wall. You cannot get around some walls. Some walls are part of a larger maze that forces you to follow a certain course. At some point I must learn to recognize which walls are surmountable and which are part of a maze.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

AT&T has been absolutely ridiculous in the past year. Since Ike, I've been paying for phone service I don't have and I can't get a straight answer from any of the humans who eventually come on the line after 30 minutes of automated menus. My DSL works on occassion, if I have the time to sit on the phone w/ techs. But still no dial tone since the storm. And they bill.

I do not have the words to convey my hatred for AT&T or my frustration over the fraud they have perpetrated.

December 07, 2008 5:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad Dan was not "RIFed"


December 09, 2008 9:31 PM  

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