AT&T: A Perfect Sale followed by a Disastrous Delivery

AT&TWhen we decided to move from our office to a new one, one of the first folks I called was AT&T. Nothing was more important in this move than ensuring our fax and phone lines were up.

After a couple of voice prompts, the representative quickly picked up the phone and answered every question I had. She was pleasant, knowledgeable, and very helpful. We decided to make the move on Saturday with the new phones going in on Friday. Being the long weekend, we thought it would be slow on the phones and wouldn't impact our clients and prospects.

We had a 1-800 number, a bunch of rolling lines, a dedicated fax line, and business-class DSL for our small business. In the new office, we combined internet access with our lease since the building is housing some essential networking equipment for a company with tons of bandwidth.

We were keeping the 1-800 number but we needed to get new phone numbers since we're in a different part of the city, so we opted in for 3 months of free messaging on the old lines to tell our customers our new phone numbers. We closed the call with a ticket number to refer to in the event of any problems.

That's Where the Perfection Ended

About a week before our move, our DSL went out. After a day and a half of talking to AT&T, with promises that it would be on before end of business (the day before), we finally got back our DSL. It's pretty difficult for an online technology company with an outbound sales team to sell without any access. Most everyone worked from home rather than wait.

Lucky for us, AT&T had a pretty liberal reimbursement policy. For the thousands of dollars in lost business we received a $119 credit on our bill.

It's even more difficult for the outbound sales team to sell without phones. That's exactly what happened a day later. It seems that some ‘glitch' for our move put immediate service stops on our DSL and phone lines. We lost phones for another day and a half. Now I was getting a little upset.

AT&T sent out a great service technician who worked with another outside guy to get the DSL line back up. When the phones were finally turned back on the DSL went out again. Another couple hours goes by but Patrick prevails and gets us back to 100%.

Until this morning.

As I walk into work this morning, I'm told the DSL is down again. No need to even call anyone, right? A couple guys had Sprint cards in the office and they were our heartbeat until we could get to the new office (where the network was already in place).

The phone lines are down as well… kind of. If you call them, they ring and ring and ring. Remember the messaging I ordered with the new phone numbers? That's not working yet. So now we have no phones and no DSL. I want to go back to bed.

Instead, we moved all of our stuff and I relocated the PBX system to the new location. A couple hours later, our AT&T repairman shows up. 15 minutes later, he says:

“Bad News”

Something is wrong with the line so they have to get a “cable” repairman out to see what's going on. He'd be out tomorrow I'm told. At this point, my CEO visits me and checks on the move. Thankfully, he's in the room as I am put on hold and forwarded from one person to the next, to the next, to the next. Each transition I am asked for proof that it's my account (last 3 digits on the bill) and from time to time, I'm asked for the service order numbers (I have two now… one for the move, another for the repairs).

My boss listens as I tactfully repeat our week of difficulties with AT&T – expressing how many sales, how much business, and how much credibility we've lost in the past week with our customers and prospects. I'm marveling at the fact that I'm able to not scream nor cuss, as I describe – with much detail – the excruciating week AT&T has provided me. Remember, it's my third week on the job. 🙂

We both marvel at the fact that each discussion with a person on the phone ends with, “Would you say that you are satisfied with the service you received today?”. “No” is my repeated reply.

Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News?

I now have a senior technician who is now in the building and working on the cable problem. He's been here for a few hours now but he's getting the phone lines working. Of course, to run adjacent to our PBX panel is $25 every 15 minutes (why don't they just say $100/hr?).

Says he, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”.

“Good news, please.”, I reply.

He finds issues with the existing building phone wiring and tells me “There is no good news, there's no way to get the lines up.”

I will not take NO for an answer.

We have about 100 CAT5 cables that are traveling between the data center and our office space so I lift a few panels and find where they go through. There's a cable-way in the firewall and a drop ceiling between it and the room where the phone lines come in. It's a straight 30 to 40 foot line. He goes and gets the cable out of his truck and ran about 100 foot of cable.

It's 9PM and we now have live phone lines in the building. I'm just waiting for the technician to complete the last of his work – it's provided me the time to write this entire blog post. The phone lines are now wired adjacent to the PBX system.

Tomorrow all I have to do is get some more cable and RJ11 jacks and I can make the hop from the new jacks to the PBX system so that we have phones on Tuesday.

That is…

That is, after we move. I am going in early tomorrow morning to supervise the office move. The team already packed everything up, so the movers should just need to move it tomorrow. It will still be a long day I'm sure.

I'll make sure we're up 100% with phones by end of business tomorrow. Today I put our network in, secure wireless, a network printer, a hub, and wired up all the cubicles from a central patch panel. I also wired all the phone lines from patch panel to our PBX system. Aside from AT&T, I've gotten a ton of work done.

On Tuesday, I'll be talking on the phone to AT&T to see why I should keep our business with them. The only things I've found them to be efficient at are:

  1. Closing the sale.
  2. Turning off service.

Stop selling what you can't deliver, AT&T. How difficult would it have been to:

  1. Call to confirm before disconnecting our DSL?
  2. Call to confirm before disconnecting our Phone lines?
  3. Call to confirm before disconnecting our DSL (the second time)?
  4. Call to confirm before disconnecting our DSL (the third time)?
  5. Have an experienced technician meet with me prior to the move date to scope out the new building and walk through the work order? I would have gladly paid $25/hr per 15 minutes for that!

It's 9PM. The Tech is done and he worked his butt off to make sure I was happy. I am happy with him, it's too bad for his company, though. I'm going home. I need to be back here in 11 hours for the movers and I have a 45 minute drive home.

I guess that's why they call it “Labor Day Weekend”!

UPDATE 9/1: The 1-800 number is still dialing the old phone number and the message intercept wasn't turned. After speaking with the 1-800 group, it appears no one ever put a work order in to have that line redirected. After talking to 4 different people, I found an Engineer who would bypass the order date (first business day, so it would be next Tuesday) to get the 1-800 number working today.

Looks like another 24 hours before the message intercept is turned on. She has to send a FAX to get it turned on. Sigh.

UPDATE 9/2: Late yesterday we must have accidentally connected to the Wizard of Telephony. I believe her name was Demetria – but she got everything else working! I was even witness to a conversation she had with another rep where she began working on the 1-800 work number as he submitted it for next Tuesday. She stuck with us all afternoon until she got the message forwarding done as well. Whomever Demetria is – AT&T needs to put her in charge of the “how to treat a customer” class!

Thank goodness we'll be and ready for Tuesday!


  1. 1

    Oh Man! Any normal business would pull out all the stops to unscrew a service failure of this magnitude.

    Trouble with many most very big companies like AT&T is that they figure it isn’t worth their while to accommodate anything that doesn’t precisely fit their cookie-cutter procedures. Have a situation that falls outside their expected norm and you’re hosed.

    I guess they figure they’re big enough that your business doesn’t matter to them. I feel bad for the lone tech they sent to your place. I’m betting they didn’t tell him he’d be working late on the Friday before a holiday weekend.

    • 2

      I’m with you, Chris. The service tech that hooked me up tonight did a heck of a job and was a really nice guy. I’m also glad he took the time to try to fix the issue rather than just bailing like the first technician.

  2. 3

    Ma Bell at it again…. I’ve never, EVER heard a good word about DSL service. Not from a technological perspective, not from a servicing perspective. I’ve always been with a cable service guy myself, including my VoIP phone connection. So far, no problems. And I’m sure that’s a tribute to a sound wiring system – one copper wire, one source for everything. Of course, I’m not looking forward to a power outage…yikes!

  3. 5


    That is SHOCKING and SCARY. Are you going to ask for any compensation? I really hope that this gets some decent coverage and someone at AT&T see this.

    Hope you have better luck with the rest of the move.


  4. 6

    What a mess. Makes some sort of ubiquitous wireless access look good, doesn’t it? Although even that will never stop incompetents from shutting things off at the wrong time…

    Sorry you’ve had such a terrible start to a long – loooonggg – weekend.

  5. 7
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  7. 9

    Katie and I are still planning on being there.

    Some nameless superhero at AT&T helped us solve the last of our issues this afternoon. She must have worked on our account for 4 or 5 hours straight. At one point, she conferenced in another person on the phone and told them to write the work order and she would complete it WHILE we were on the phone. I don’t know who she was, but I’m so glad she happened to pick up the phone!

  8. 11

    Hey Doug glad it all worked out after all the horrible troubles. I’m sure we all have our horror stories to tell but yours tops many I’ve heard or been involved in! Good luck from here on out.

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