Recently I moved houses. With moving houses comes the necessity to set up services like water, electric, and internet. Choosing to bundle the entertainment services, I went with DirecTV, who partners with AT&T in my neighborhood for the wireless internet portion of the bundle.
Like many of us have done, I talked to the service rep on the phone, signed up, and waited for the tech to come between 8am and 12pm. The tech came and installed the modem, he finished at about 3pm, and I had wireless internet! The following morning the internet was down, and I thought it was probably a fluke. I reset the modem, but had no luck, so I chalked it up to the modem getting acclimated to my house like a new pair of shoes. That afternoon when I returned home, the service was working fine, and continued working into the evening. The following morning, however, the service was down again. Deciding this was more than a fluke, I called customer service to try to get the issue resolved.
I will spare the chronological details of the 5 days that followed, but suffice it to say that I was on the phone with AT&T customer service for roughly an hour a day, spent several of those days waiting at home between 8am and 12pm, had at least 6 techs visit my house, and spoke with over 10 customer service reps who varied in competency. It was a poor customer experience to say the least.
I eventually got so frustrated with the customer service call centers that I took my issue to Twitter. (As a sidebar, I rarely rant or speak negatively on social media. I don’t feel that it helps anyone to permeate negativity…especially online, but in this instance I was mad.) I unleashed a bevvy of tweets, each one containing the @att mention, and bluntly described my situation. Within 20 minutes I received a reply tweet from AT&T’s social media team to send them a direct message with my account number. I did, and received a telephone call in about 15 minutes. The person whom I spoke with was on the ball. From what I understand, the members of the social media team are specially trained to deal with all aspects of all account types; apparently they are the gatekeepers of customer service.
After speaking with the gatekeeper, I had techs visit my house several times. Apparently, my issue was quite complicated. However, I felt like I was in good hands because I essentially had my own personal account manager whom I could call or email directly with any problems. Eventually the problem was resolved, and I received credits to my account for the inconveniences.
While I am satisfied that the issue is resolved, and happy that I now have a direct line to a gatekeeper, I am just generally disappointed with the whole experience. It is so backwards that I had to endure the incompetencies of a traditional customer service call center; backwards that I had to get mad and use Twitter with a high blood pressure fueled tweet rant; backwards that to get any efficient results I had to publicly blast the company. If I had bypassed the call center, would my tweets have been treated with the same sense of urgency?
The traditional call center model is known to be flawed. Anyone who has ever been put on hold for more than 10 minutes, spoken with someone whom they couldn’t phonetically understand, or had to relay their story multiple times to multiple reps knows that there is a serious problem within the customer service arena. How are so many companies big and small relying on call centers to serve their customers? What is the alternative? In this instance, I got pretty good results out of social media, but at the expense of my mental health and loss of time. If companies start turning to social media to resolve customer service issues, will it eventually turn into the new call center?
There has got to be a better way.