ATT Chatbots (People?) Don't Even Pretend To Help Anymore

This unedited transcript from a recent “customer support” chat is pure, undiluted idiocy. Do not be surprised if after reading it, you feel a little dead inside, or a little stupider. That’s how you know the customer service chatbot—or person, which is kind of sad—is doing its job.

Chat Information
AT&T product specialists are happy to assist you with your questions. Click below to begin your live text chat. Chat representatives will not have access to your personal account. This service is provided to you under AT&Ts Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Chat Information
Welcome to AT&T. My name is Peter. How may I help you today?

Peter: I will be happy to answer your questions regarding AT&T services. I specialize in setting up new phone accounts and High Speed Internet service.

you: Hi Peter, I’m comparing services in the Columbus area. I’m looking for basic internet and cable tv. I wasn’t very lucky in finding prices on the website.

you: I would like 2mbps internet and basic or standard tv service.

Peter: Do you currently have local service with AT&T?

you: I do not, I moved in a few days ago.

Peter: To clarify ordering DSL online does require a basic home phone line; which ranges in price from $5-$17 per month, and this would make your High Speed DSL prices $10 cheaper per month. Also if you place the order through phone you will be not eligible to get the current online promotions.

you: I’m in no need of a land line.

you: What online promotions are you speaking about?

(Long pause)

Peter: May I ask from which state you are?

you: I’m from **. I’m a new graduate student at ***

you: So my new residence is Columbus OH 43201

you: I mention it becuase I’ve been offered student discounts at other companies

(Another wait)

Peter: Good news though if you order online today you will receive the New Line Promotional credit making your phone activation free of charge which would cost you $38 to $40.

you: I don’t want a phone.

you: I want internet and tv.

(Another wait)

Peter: However you can go for U-verse services if it is able in your area?

[Shouldn’t he know if it’s available in my area? I’ve provide my location.]

Peter: AT&T U-verse service is 100% digital television delivered over an Internet Protocol (IP) platform using fiber optic technology. AT&T U-verse also offers High Speed Internet and Voice (in limited areas) over IP access into your home.

you: That’s fantastic, but I’m just looking for price quotes on basic internet and tv service. I don’t need anything besides basic cable and 2Mbps dsl.

[A few minutes go by while I wait for a response.]

you: Well thanks Peter, but I think I’m going to find another service.

The customer, Will, adds, “I was then directed to a review of my chat session.” His review was not favorable:

I let [AT&T] know I had no interest in being pushed canned lines by a salesperson with a shaky understanding of the English language, but would have expected, as I have experienced with other websites, online site assistance.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. bohn002 says:

    “live” help never helpful at all.

  2. Coder4Life says:

    oh wow, i think that might of been a bot. that is just ridiculous or someone was just having a blast with him…

    Eitherways they should find out who this was and then FIRE THEM!!!

  3. phantomfly says:

    Yes, the chat is ridiculous. However, does Will not realize that (in most cases) you need a landline for DSL?

    • @phantomfly: I’m not so sure you are correct on that. If I recall ATT was actually required to provide an account option for a dedicated DSL line…I may have evan read that here.

      I’m actually in the process of looking for a new service provider since my three roommates and I are definatly going to be going over Comcast’s 250 GB/mo.

    • picardia says:

      @phantomfly: He may have a landline already.

      • I dont understand why people don’t just pick up a phone. My company uses a chat service for customers and the people you’re talking to are also, answering emails and taking calls. Because of this, a chat through a website is not fast (so stop expecting it to be) and not an efficient way to get answers. Most of the answers, even when it’s a live person, are canned.

        I would NEVER EVER use a chat service for assistance when they have an 800 number available. It just doesn’t make sense.

    • ThickSkinned says:

      @phantomfly: That is completely false. In most cases you do not need a landline for DSL. It’s called dry loop or naked DSL. AT&T will never suggest it because it denies them the fees charged for landline usage.

    • SOhp101 says:

      @phantomfly: Recently AT&T has started a service that doesn’t require a landline to use DSL. It costs a bit more but quite worth it if you can’t stand cable.

    • baristabrawl says:

      @phantomfly:

      I’m very disappointed in my recent cable internet outages with Brighthouse and I called to see if AT&T U-Verse was up and running in my neighborhood. It will be soon. I can’t imagine that it will be much better, but whatever.

      The nice lady told me that I didn’t have to have a landline, but if I didn’t want one it would take a week longer to get my service. Uh…why? Something about rendering the line or some such nonsense.

      My point: I thought that they were going to make it illegal to force people into having a landline if they didn’t want it? It honestly only saves about $9 a month, but DSL service is usually cheaper than cable.

    • toy_ says:

      @phantomfly: You don’t need a landline, you just need the copper wire that goes back to the telco. There it just gets split off the patch panel to the phone switch and the DSLAM. If you don’t want a phone, there is no reason they can’t keep you connected to the DSLAM.

  4. DeleteThisAccount says:

    “stupider” ftw.

  5. strife1012 says:

    Maybe they should get the Verizon Online person “Jennifer”, at least calling that guy an ass showed they were real.

  6. L3J says:

    I actually had a pleasant experience the one time I used ATT’s chat. I suspected it was a bot, but at one point I was able to get a “lol” out of the person on the other end.

    It is shameful though that companies assume they’re providing service through “convenient” channels like online chat. Good service can only be provided when a business listens to customers needs. Or in this case… reads.

  7. FreemanB says:

    If that’s the best SkyNet can do, I don’t think we have to be that worried at all.

  8. dantsea says:

    Wow. Okay. I guess the reason AT&T blames The Computer is because AT&T *is* the computer.

  9. trujunglist says:

    I think the point is that he wanted the naked DSL without phone service, which is extraordinarily difficult to achieve, and even harder to achieve with a bot trying to answer questions.

  10. SabreDC says:

    Voyou_Charmant, but if you use a telephone, you’re not eligible to receive the online promotions! And then you have to pay the “telephone account access fee” and the “telephone live-person convenience fee”.

  11. Daemonstar says:

    When I ordered our DSL from AT&T, they had just started that promotion for a dry line. The only thing was, the dry line DSL was more expensive than the cheapest phone line (no LD, limited calls/month) + DSL. It’s not like I’m making phone calls on it, anyway.

    I also figured it was also easier to do business with them if I have an actual phone number, especially if I want to switch my TV later on. When you go to their online account manager, it wants your AT&T phone number.

  12. rayhaque says:

    I use Live Help all the time. It’s usually really lame and robotic. I’ve even been given an apology note after my problem was solved. The half-human robot quickly apologized for sending the wrong message. But I figured it was a knee-jerk response to what he was used to.

    On a good note, I use Live Help on NewEgg.com all the time. So long as you are not asking technical advice (which is off-limits for any sales agent) they can be quite helpful – and fast! If course, if you call them, you tend to get the same quick and helpful folks.

  13. Daemonstar says:

    @ryatziv: I don’t remember; it’s been too long since then. :P

  14. arl84 says:

    Sadly the chat was probably a live person. And not even outsourced to another country.

    I think I can see what happened here, the ATT rep was probably chatting with 2 and 3 other customers and answering e-mails too (Voyou_Charmant your company is evil for making your reps chat and talk on the phone at the same time) so he probably wasn’t paying much attention to the guy that wasn’t interested in what he was selling.

    It really bothers me when people expect exceptional customer service through chat. When have you ever had an exceptional anything through a chat?

  15. dwarf74 says:

    I went to a software conference not too long ago, held by Aspect Communications. They make the software that’s behind a large percentage of both telephone and internet communications.

    Chat is apparently the “new thing.” I heard 2 different stories from folks.

    (1) Some companies put their newest employees on chat, since it’s lower-pressure and they can research their answers better.

    (2) Some companies put their most experienced employees on chat, and make them handle multiple windows at once.

    Neither one sounded particularly great to me, from a consumer point of view. From a corporate point of view, it makes a certain degree of sense – but that’s not what I care about when I’m contacting another company.

    I’ll stick with phone calls. For all their faults, at least I’m reasonably sure I’m talking to a real person.

  16. 10felines says:

    Yes you can get at&t internet without a phone. I have it. It was a fight and I had to go through many “cs” reps but finally got one who said yes. Just keep calling back and you will get it. I cancelled and screamed a few times and then as soon as I calmed down and called back a couple of days later and got what I wanted. Persistence….or stupidity….not sure which but in the end I got it.

  17. logicalnoise says:

    man, that’s pretty sad. I just recently bought a new phone and re-signed with Sprint and had to use their online chat 3 times to take care of it. My only annoyance was that it would take anywhere from 1 minute to 7 to get a response back on each question or response. SO obviously the person I was chatting with was probably running a few chats all at once. But overall their service was good and they helped me get my new phone up and running as well as upgrading my service plan.

  18. Landru says:

    The question I have: Is it bad manners to ask someone in chat if they are a bot?

    Also, I have been surprised a few times calling in to customer support and mistaking the human for a recorded message.

    “Hello? Hello? Please stop pressing the zero key.”

    “Oops, sorry.”

    • TheSpatulaOfLove says:

      @Landru:

      Whenever I use the online chat I open the conversation with: “Bot or human?”

      If I get a nonsensical answer, I assume bot and then type:

      “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog!” CTRL-C, CTRL-V, , CTRL-V, , CTRL-V, , CTRL-V, , CTRL-V, ….wash rinse repeat.

    • Derek Manuel says:

      @Landru:

      I told mine I really got the feeling I was chatting with a bot. She said, “Why would you think that?”

      So I told her exactly why. “Because your responses seem to focus on a single keyword in my questions rather than actually answering them.”

      She did not respond after that.

      • Derek Manuel says:

        @Derek Manuel:

        The worst thing about it is that their e-mail is manned by bots, too. I get the same kind of in-the-ballpark-but-totally-useless answers when I email AT&T, only at a much slower pace.

  19. BoraBora says:

    Ha. I tried to reach AT&T wireless chat support yesterday and couldn’t even get through to the chat. The web site asked me a few questions, I answered them, then I said “please press the ‘chat to begin” only there was no “chat’ button anywhere.

  20. Zulujines says:

    I think it depends on what you are looking to find out. I would not ask any complicated questions through an online chat. I’ve used them a few times when I had really simple questions, and honestly, it was a lot better than dialing an 800 number, entering all my account information*, and waiting on hold just for someone to answer yes or no. I always assume the person on the other end is busy and totally disinterested.

    *And by the way, my pet peeve with that is when they ask you to enter your sixteen digit zip code, followed by your five digit zip code, and then as soon as you get a live person, they ask you the exact same information. I never understand that. I want to rebel by refusing to enter my personal information, but I just don’t have the strength anymore.

  21. Zulujines says:

    sixteen digit account number

  22. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    I guess putting things in brackets makes the blog freak out – There were BRACKET Enter BRACKET between those CTRL-Vs…

  23. FLConsumer says:

    There’s no technical reason why you need a landline for DSL. Over in Iraq, there’s some private troop-run ISPs which use DSL on-base, all jerry-rigged.

    At my home, I have DSL on a dry line straight from the CO, totally separate from my land line.

  24. snowlock says:

    at&t customer service isn’t much better over the phone,
    at least in my limited experience with it.

    i decided to try dsl as a cheap alternative to comcast.
    it wasn’t always available way out here.
    i explained to the salesperson at signup
    that a wireless router i had was my only option for connection,
    and she assured me that there would be no problems with that.

    needless to say there were problems.

    after an eternity on the phone with multiple outsourced reps,
    i still had no luck connecting on the new modem they overnighted to me.
    Every Single Person i spoke with would follow the same loop/script.
    they would, no matter what, eventually tell me to plug directly to the modem.
    since i told them all that was impossible, i eventually hung up and started over.
    the second rep on the second call let something slip about a dummy login.
    he finally gave me a dummy login and password to “authenticate the modem.”

    it’s also worth mentioning that i was thoroughly disappointed once i got online.
    i hooked up at their highest residential tier of service,
    but i could barely get over 1mbps download speed out of the line.
    just as i told the salesperson in the original order,
    i canceled and returned their hardware for a full refund.

  25. Aisley says:

    “Peter: Good news though if you order online today you will receive the New Line Promotional credit making your phone activation free of charge which would cost you $38 to $40.”

    Uh, Peter, Peter, yooho! I am very sure I do not need phone service. I am talking to you thru the phone service I ALREADY HAVE, you knucle head!

    • klc says:

      @Aisley: “Uh, Peter, Peter, yooho! I am very sure I do not need phone service. I am talking to you thru the phone service I ALREADY HAVE, you knucle head!”

      Umm… Did you READ the article? Yes?

      Did you UNDERSTAND the article?

      If anything PeterBot should be asking consumer X why he needs DSL when he’s obviously talking on online chat! Maybe that’s what caused the kerfuckulation of it’s obviously flawless response script…

  26. SmaShT says:

    Since I only live part time in the US, when I’m outisde of the country I’ve had to deal with ATT through email, and they’ve been wonderful. After I briefly explain that I can’t contact their toll-free numbers posted on their site from the outside, they always bend the rules a little and do stuff they don’t usually do via email, like cancelling or temporarily suspending some services. And doing this has never required more than one short email using the forms in their site.

  27. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I think part of the problem is that the chat bots/reps are merely order takers. They have no clue about any promotions or discounts that are running in your area. Best thing to do is sign-up through the website or call.

    But from my experience with Verizon DSL, ordering through their website is the best way to go. For some lame reason, you can’t get the promotional deals if you call in to order new service. Same thing if you go to a Verizon store. Sheesh.

  28. Quatre707 says:

    Your mistake was asking someone who is paid for upselling service tiers, and closing service contracts signups, for a price quote on “basic” services.

    I recommend you call AT&T customer service, not sales. Explain to them that you were not comfortable with the pushing sales attitude, and lack of help in researching the services you desire.

    If you’re offered special promotions, hear them out, listen and note the prices, services, and prices after promo period, and whether or not you can cancel advanced services without breaking your contract, or needing to sign up for a new contract. Compare the special offers your given to the price points of basic service.

  29. dragonfire81 says:

    I used to work for a telecom and our chat support WAS in another country.

    It sounds like you got a non native English speaker who knew how to do little of note except cut and paste.

  30. Brie says:

    Although I too have given up on customer service chats, I’d rather use an online option than call because:

    1) I hate talking on the phone
    2) I hate being on hold. There are decent companies that at least guesstimate how long the hold queue is, e.g. “estimated wait time is/20/minutes.”
    3) Usually I don’t need an answer that very second.

    The worst, though, has been any time I’ve sought answers via e-mail (Sprint) or chat (ditech) and been told, “You need to call in. I am happy to have assisted you on this matter!” And then I call in and wade through the phone tree, which tells me “for faster service, please log on to our website.”

  31. Krobar says:

    living in 43202, I would suggest the OP call Time Warner and ask them if they have any specials, especially for people switching from a different service. I went to them from WOW and pay about $75 a month for 8mb, full digital cable w/hd and an hd dvr.

  32. aaronspuler says:

    I had a similar experience with HP recently. I seriously hope that it was a chat bot and not a real person. Here’s the text of my chat:

    Amel A: Welcome to HP Total Care for Desktops. My name is Amel. How may I assist you today?
    Amel A: Hi Aaron, are you able to view my message?

    Aaron Spuler: Howdy, I can see your message

    Amel A: Hello Aaron, how may I assist you ?

    Aaron Spuler: I have a s3120n and it’s set to go to sleep after an hour of inactivity. When i went to wake it up this afternoon, it won’t come back up.

    Amel A: Please do not worry. I will assist you to the best of my knowledge.

    Aaron Spuler: Thanks. I unplugged the system from the wall, and unplugged all periphials (except monitor, keyboard, mouse). I hit the power button and the system acts like it comes on properly, but the monitor does not display a picture, the keyboard lights do not come on, and the mouse lights do not come on either.

    Amel A: Have you tried any troubleshooting steps before contacting us?

    Aaron Spuler: Did some manual troubleshooting, but nothing works.

    Amel A: Did you tried enabling the keyboard and mouse to wake the PC from sleep?

    Aaron Spuler: I haven’t changed anything on the system in weeks. It’s always been set to enable the mouse and keyboard to wake the PC from sleep. Trouble is, there is no signal to the mouse, no signal to the keyboard, and no signal to the monitor right now. So I can’t re-configure anything.

    Amel A: Are you on the same PC with the issue?

    Aaron Spuler: Right now?

    Amel A: Yes.

    Aaron Spuler: Are you serious? I just said that the PC that I’m having problems with has no signal to monitor, no signal to keyboard, and no signal to monitor. I have no input or output devices on that PC that are working right now….
    Aaron Spuler: So naturally, I’m using a DIFFERENT PC right now, one that works.

    Amel A: I apologize for not been able to understand your message clearly.
    Amel A: Is the PC with the issue near you now?

    Aaron Spuler: I think I’m just going to take the system in to a repair shop tomorrow, thanks.

  33. BrianDaBrain says:

    I can almost see the CSR (assuming it WAS a person) sitting at the computer making the most of his boring day by making life difficult for this potential customer. I feel less intelligent for having read that, I can only imagine how the OP felt.

  34. iDuckie says:

    From what I understand… the OP was using the landline chat services. I’m not sure on landline, but I know the wireless chats are real people, cause I know a few of them in the tech chat room. I’m fairly certain at&t landline also has chat people, but they have to follow a script to the best of their ability.

    As for wanting to know prices… the OP was already at at&t’s website, why not run a search? It’s not that hard.

  35. Derek Manuel says:

    I just had a similar experience. I asked about upgrading from my (busted) original iPhone to a refurbished iPhone 3G, and LivePerson Vera directed me to click the upgrade link to see what phones were available to me for upgrade. When I did, obviously iPhone 3G was not there. I told LivePerson Vera this, and she told me that “to upgrade to iPhone,” I should call Customer Care or visit a store, and that “online offers not available in-store or by phone.” I then asked, “Is the refurbished iPhone 3G an online-only offer? Because if so, then calling Customer Care or going to the store won’t help me.”

    Vera replied, “Yes! Refurbished phones are available online only.”

    Thanks, bitch.