Thursday, September 3, 2009

The night before...and a some notes about customer service

It's the night before U-Verse, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even, never mind.

Yeah, the big game begins tomorrow, Sunflower Broadband vs AT&T U-Verse for triple-play supremacy in Lawrence, Kansas. Well, at least in one residence in Lawrence.

I have a nice little to do list to take care of this evening, including prepping our AV equipment and televisions, clearing away some clutter to allow for easy access for wiring, and deciding where to places various pieces of equipment. I am hoping the guy AT&T sends out tomorrow is a competent, friendly professional who will discuss our needs and desires with the service, be considerate of our property and home, and do an excellent job.

Points off if he is a slob, doesn't listen (major points off if he tries to blow off the need for installing new CAT-5e wiring runs so we can simultaneously keep our existing Sunflower service) or otherwise doesn't put the best face forward for U-Verse.

This segues into a brief note about customer service and the impressions I will have, as a customer, with AT&T. Frankly, I have never been impressed with AT&T's customer service in any form. AT&T is the worst part of my otherwise great experience with the iPhone. AT&T's customer service even during the U-Verse ordering process has been crappy. We protect our credit by utilizing a lock service on our credit reports, meaning (since AT&T runs a credit report when you sign up) we had to call AT&T's call center to actually order, and they couldn't even tell us which credit service they use until we called several times, and they had a difficult time applying the web special pricing to our account.

AT&T also ignored our requested timing for the install with no explanation. We had asked for a Saturday, but they scheduled us for a weekday. We called to find out why, and it turns out when you get a phone number ported, it has to be a business day. Great, how about making your back-end system a bit smarter? When we actually tried to change the install day to another weekday, we spoke to someone who had a very poor understanding of the English language, and it took a while to even make this simple change.

If AT&T is this bad when we are trying to order, what's going to happen when we actually have an issue? I've heard rumors that the tier 2 (US-based) AT&T support is actually very good. We shall find out.

Sunflower's customer service has two huge advantages over AT&T's - it is local, and everyone speaks English. Local isn't always great (the banjo-playing kid in "Deliverance" was local too!) but in this case, it is a big advantage.

On the other hand, our actual support experiences with Sunflower have been very mixed over the years. This past spring, we had significant internet slowdown issues, with solid data showing exactly what and where the problem was, but Sunflower blew us off, argued with us, initially sent a tech to our home who was incredibly rude, and only finally admitted and fixed the issues after additional extensive prodding from us.

That was Jekyll. Thankfully, Mr. Hyde showed up this very week, when we had a cable modem outage. I tweeted to Sunflower's Twitter account about it, and they quickly communicated with me, and had a friendly, competent tech call me within 15 minutes. He quickly diagnosed the problem (having to do with stale routing tables in our cable modem after a Sunflower back-end change) and had us back online quickly. It was great.

Anyway, that is the lay of the land....television, internet, phone, and customer service...and behind it all, obviously the price and relative value of the two services. Over the next month, we will see who wins...most importantly, I think no matter which company (or a mix of both) that we choose to go with a month from now, the people of Lawrence win, by having multiple choices to choose from for these services.

Game on!

PS: If you missed earlier segments of the U-Verse vs Sunflower preview, check out our look at telephone service, television, and internet.


  1. Looking forward to the coming installments on this blog. I am VERY curious about UVerse....

  2. Great documentation so far, I just finished an online order, and your information is excellent. One thing I have to comment on regarding customer service.

    My sister had an awful experience with the install and the necessary follow-up calls, so I was a little nervous. Combined with ATT's already tarnished image, I was expecting a negative ordering experience.

    I hit up the 'live chat' app and began an intelligent conversation with a rep. He answered all my questions, didn't seem scripted, had access to my cart to confirm certain selections, etc. Plus, now I have the chat transcript should any of the discussed items end up in dispute.

    These days, the less you have to actually talk to someone, the better off you are. But that's just me, and I'm anti-social :-)