AT&T Rep: Our Service Is So Terrible In Houston Because It's So Popular

Reader Chris is an AT&T Wireless customer with an iPhone, and has noticed a marked decline in the quality of his phone calls at both work and home. That’s not unusual, especially for customers who live in large cities like he does. His real complaint is about AT&T’s attitude toward their declining service. A customer service representative told him that this is just what happens when a service becomes more popular, and he should try buying a 3G Microcell to see whether that improves his service. Chris doesn’t agree that he should pay more for his mobile phone service because it’s becoming worse.

I’ve been having some issues with AT&T and my iPhone. When I called last night to discuss them, I had the worst customer support experience ever.

Some background:

I have 2 iPhones on my AT&T account, and will soon have three when my niece moves in with me this summer. I live near downtown Houston and work in a company 2.7 miles away. At my software company, where I am the Manager of Consulting Services and Customer Care, we have 10 people on iPhones on AT&T which we happily pay for each month because we know that our employees are always within reach of each other and our customers.

In the past several months, we have experienced a sharp decrease in the ability to make and maintain phone calls at both locations. Where we used to have superior call quality, we are now lucky to even be able to dial out. When I first moved to this area in January of 2010 and notified AT&T about my new location, I was assured that I was in an area that was well covered. The first month, my reception was terrible, but was told that, at the time, there were three cell towers in my area being repaired and that within 30 days the quality would improve. And improve it did. So I know that reception in this area is possible, or at least it was.

Last night, I tried to participate on 3 phone calls, all of which either resulted in dropped calls or the other party not being able to hear me at all unless I was standing on my patio. At that point I had had enough. With the same problem happening at my office so close to my home, I decided AT&T needed to know about the issue, so I called support and spoke to [M].

After I explained what was happening, M.’s first statement to me was this, “Let me make sure I understand you, you are only having this problem when you are inside?” When I said yes, he followed up with, “Ok, well the first thing you need to know is that AT&T does not guarantee you will have any signal strength at all when you are not outside.”

When I explained again that the call quality has gotten worse over time, so I know that good call quality is possible in this area, he explained that to me by saying, “Well, as more and more people move to AT&T, there are more people on the network, so you will experience poorer quality service. That’s just how it works.”

To say I was appalled would be an understatement. If I was in a restaurant that was incredibly busy and I received poorer service than usual, I wouldn’t leave much of a tip so the meal would end up costing me less. And I would stop going to that restaurant if they were unable to maintain a good level of service no matter how many customers they had.

At this point I didn’t think my customer support experience could get any worse, but I was surprised.

M. then informed me that I shouldn’t worry, that AT&T had a solution for me that was very effective and could take care of this problem quite easily: the Microcell 3g.

He went through the benefits of this device (which may work for my home, but the limit of only 5 accounts wouldn’t do much for my office), explained that it used my current internet connection, and that it would cost me $199 after a $100 mail in rebate.

This is the point where I totally lost faith in AT&T. If M.was prepared to so quickly offer up this solution that would cost me money, I am clearly not the only customer experiencing such issues with degrading AT&T phone quality.

Here are my issues with this device, which I clarified with M.:

1. AT&T service, through no fault of mine, but rather because of AT&Ts success, has decreased to the point that both at home and at the office I can no longer reliably count on the AT&T network
2. AT&T, to correct this problem, wants me to spend $199 of my own money to correct a problem with their network
3. This device, which only works with up to 5 accounts, will not be enough for my office, where we will have to purchase 2, and as we grow, even more. And even then it was not clear that the device would be able to reach the entire office (and would only work for the 5 employees when they were within reach of their “home tower” and not any of the other towers we would have to place in the building) and would end up costing my company a minimum of $398 just to test it out again because the AT&T network is too successful to allow for good quality service.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in this tactic that AT&T has taken. I’m working on trying to get this info through to someone higher up in their company…Managing a support organization, I am dumbfounded on how difficult it is to raise issues with this company.

Good luck. Here’s one place to start.