Will Someone at AT&T Solve My Porting Problem?
I have always been skeptical when I hear some elaborate story about how “real customer service” has become extinct, or how someone was “wronged” by an impersonal corporation. It has been my experience that when someone is relaying one of these negative stories, one or two very important details are left out of their version, which if performed properly on their end, could have alleviated some or all of their “suffering”. I also take exception to many of these one-sided negative stories because I work in Corporate America and pride myself on providing the best customer experience possible, and I am sure there are millions more of you out there waking up every morning with the same mentality.
It has been my experience that most companies have their front-facing customer service associates (retail employees, call centers, etc.) prepared to handle 95% of the most common issues that arise during or after a business transaction, which is great if your main goal is to maximize Net Income by satisfying as many customers as their financially constricted budget will allow. I do not have a problem with this concept because I realize financial resources are finite and must be managed responsibly or else many good, hardworking people can/will lose their jobs due to no fault of their own.
With that said, I want to inform you of my recent experience with changing telecommunications providers. We had our internet and phone service through another provider. Our internet speeds with them rarely reached the 2 mbps threshold, with the norm being between 500 kbps to 1.5 mbps, which is very slow compared to today’s standards. We also experienced temporary internet outages and dropped phone calls on our VOIP home line at least once a week, sometimes multiple times per week. To make matters worse, we were paying a higher-than-market rate because we had not proactively shopped around for a replacement service. Since our contract had already expired, we began to look around the telecommunications marketplace to learn about our options so we could make an informed decision.
On April 11th 2014, we decided to go with the AT&T U-Verse internet and phone products. I had a few questions and I wanted to make sure I filled in the website application correctly, so I clicked on the “Chat Live Now” button. The AT&T representative could not have been nicer. She stayed on the chat line while I completed the forms in the event I had any additional questions; I had a few more and she was very helpful. Near the end of the process, the website asks if I would like to “port” my current phone number into my new AT&T account. I went back to “chat” and asked if I needed to call my former provider or do anything on my end to expedite the porting, and she said “no, AT&T will contact them to port your phone number”. Great, we scheduled our installation and I was done, for now.
Installation went well and we were up and running with our new AT&T U-Verse internet and phone service on April 30th 2014 with one exception, we have a “temporary phone number”. I then discovered that our phone number had yet to be “ported” and “confirmed”, but we were told this happens sometimes and it may take a few days for the official confirmation. I called to check with AT&T the first week of May (I apologize, I do not know the exact date), and they said that they had not received confirmation yet. They cancelled that porting and scheduled another one for May 15th, 2014. I did not think much about it and went on with my life. Another small box arrived via FedEx welcoming us to AT&T and informing us of this new service date. The deadline passed again with no porting, and I called AT&T again.
I will spare you the repetitive text of the scheduling of the port and the number not porting, and just list the dates of the scheduled porting below.
- April 30th, 2014 (original installation date)
- May 7th, 2014 or May 8th, 2014
- May 15th, 2014
- May 21st 2014
- May 29th 2014
- June 13th, 2014
- June 18th, 2014
- June 24th, 2014
- July 3rd, 2014
- July 11th, 2014
- July 18th, 2014
- July 24th, 2014 (home service call)
- July 31st, 2014
These are just the calls to AT&T. I tried to take good notes so I can provide accurate details, but I may have mistakenly omitted additional attempts to port my phone number. I also want to emphasize that with each failed porting attempt, I had to call back into the AT&T call tree, answer all of those automated questions before talking to a human, re-explain my situation, allow them to read the notes, and then listen to the customer service associate tell me that the submission has not been completed and confirmed because it had an error, but now it has been corrected. “Don’t worry” they would say, “everything is scheduled for (fill in new porting date here). I am sorry for all of your trouble, but I am glad that I get to be the one that restores your faith in AT&T”. I would then get the obligatory “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” scripted closing.
As I mentioned before, I do not expect perfection and I know strange things can sometimes happen with technology. My frustration is that I seem to simply get “re-scheduled” (no less than 12 times) and no one seems to want to see this through to a successful conclusion. I have had 7 different people say the phrase “I am so sorry for your troubles, I will be the one to help you today to make sure this is the last time you call into AT&T about porting your phone number”. Each time they would “online chat” with Tier II personnel to correct the errors and resubmit the request. Along with those 7 people, I talked to 4 supervisors, and they committed to calling me back to verify my number was successfully ported. To date, none of them have ever called to confirm one way or another.
On top of all of this, the monthly rate we were being charged somehow was changed from the originally agreed upon rate of $45 (I have a screenshot of this price from the AT&T website) to $90. I called and talked to a representative in the AT&T billing department, and they said my account was reset due to the porting issues and I lost my discounts. They reapplied the new customer U-Verse Internet and Voice discounts, but I noticed recently that our monthly rate has now increased to $60, and I have not taken the time to investigate why.
On July 24th 2014, we had an in-home service call because our U-Verse Internet was down. The service technician was excellent and we were back up and running. However, he also called to find out why our number has not been ported. He heard that we were scheduled for July 31st 2014 and they could not do anything else until that date. Unfortunately, July 31st 2014 came and went without our phone number being ported, and this letter is my first contact with AT&T since that time.
To put this in perspective, I am paying two different telecom companies (because my old account must remain “active” in order to port the number) and I do not have adequate phone service. While we have a temporary phone number for outgoing calls, we are not receiving any incoming phone calls. It is not just friends and family, but doctors, schools, youth coaches, credit card companies, insurance companies, utility companies, and any other entity that asks for a home phone number on their application, or anyone who looks up our phone number in the Yellow Pages. We did not give out that temporary “469” phone number because it was not supposed to be attached to our household for more than a week. How confusing would that be to ask all of these people and organizations to change our phone number to the temporary “469” number for now, only to call all of them again in the future to have them change it back to our “972” number.
Needless to say, this is one of the worst new customer experiences I can remember, and the hours I have spent (going through the automated call tree, sitting on hold, re-explaining our situation, getting transferred, etc.) with AT&T is more than I care to count. I also have spent a lot of time doing the same thing with my former provider, but at least their hold times are much shorter.
To summarize my first 100 days with AT&T:
- I have fast internet which has been working well.
- I have a temporary phone number that no one knows, therefore no one can call our house.
- I have placed no less than 22 phone calls to AT&T and my former provider combined, and at least 4 supervisors have committed to calling me back to make sure my number is ported; no one has ever called on the day of porting or on the day after porting.
- I am paying both AT&T and my former provider, and we have inadequate phone service.
- I have been billed (and my credit card has been swept) at least three different amounts, and the only consolation to make up for my troubles is when one of your representatives offered me $20 off of my monthly bill.
- I am experiencing a combination of the kid’s game “Hot Potato” and the movie “Groundhog Day”; AT&T just wants to pass me along to get me off of the phone without dealing with the root of the problem, and they just keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
The excerpt below is copied and pasted directly from the Business Code of Conduct on the www.att.com website.
Our Commitment to Our Customers
We follow ethical sales practices.
Our customers should always know we value them. We fairly represent our products and services to them. We listen to our customers, and challenge ourselves to find new ways to offer the best solutions available to help them communicate efficiently, sustainably, and safely. We earn and preserve their trust by treating them with honesty and integrity and in a professional, courteous manner. We deliver what we promise. We do not provide goods or services that customers did not authorize.
I am sure very few customers have experienced what I am going through, but I must ask the question: How would you feel if you were in my shoes? I understand things go wrong in all aspects of life, but my main complaint is that no one at AT&T seems to care whether my problem gets resolved. As I mentioned before, simple communication is all we need for resolution. I know AT&T is an excellent organization (bad companies do not earn $128 Billion a year in revenue), and I am sure my former provider has ported many phone numbers out of their system, but apparently the right people are not communicating with each other to find out what the errors are on the porting request, and how they need to be corrected. If the right people had communicated effectively, the errors would have been corrected and my number would have been ported.
I cannot answer my question (about being in my shoes) for you, but I will answer it for me. I just want someone to care enough to contact me and let me know (1) what has been going on with the requests, (2) when my number will be ported, and (3) how my billing will be corrected. I would also like someone to own the issue and make a follow-up phone call just to make sure everything was performed as AT&T committed.