Service Design Failure — AT&T Fiber Installation
Being a software developer who designs systems and workflows that focuses on a good customer experience, I had the joy of experiencing a system that was poorly designed and I wanted to dissect this experience to identify the problem areas and why it causes a bad experience.
AT&T schedules a two-hour window for the technician to arrive to install fiber to the house. The process involves running a wire from the utility pole to the house, drilling a hole into the house for the fiber line, and setting up the modem/router.
1st attempt: I initially schedule fiber installation between 12:00 pm and 2 pm. Around 1:30 pm, I received a text message that the technician is running late and unlikely to arrive by 2 pm. It said I could wait or rescheduled so I decided to wait. By 3:50 pm, I pretty much waited 3 and a half hours with no ETA when the technician will arrive so I gave up and rescheduled the appointment.
2nd attempt: Two-hour window was scheduled for 10 am and 12 pm, I received the same text message that the technician is running late and unlikely to arrive within the time window. I called the customer service number to check where my technician was and get an actual ETA. The customer service person couldn’t give an ETA because it’s handled by their dispatch center and they can’t check with the dispatch center either. The customer service person can only help reschedule an appointment. I decided not to reschedule and waited to see if the technician would eventually show up. The technician was showed up 3 hours after the two-hour window and starts to connect a wire from the pole to the building but he can’t finish the installation because there’s a light source issue. A different type of technician needs to fix the light issue on the pole. It’s too late to have another technician dispatched so I get stuck with rescheduling the entire appointment again. I scheduled the next appointment at the earliest time slot: 8:00 am to 10:00 am.
3rd attempt: Good news! The technician arrived within the two-hour time window! He picks up where the last technician left off by checking the line for a good light signal. Same light source issue! He says the previous technician didn’t file a ticket to get the light source fixed but he’ll go check the other pole down the street to see if the issue is with this pole or the entire line. During the installation, he said he got kicked off the job and another technician was assigned due to a system glitch. The current technician completes the house installation with drilling a hole into the house to run the fiber line inside for the modem. However, he can’t file a ticket for the light source issue because he’s not on the job so he gives me some information to pass on to the next technician. Great another installation attempt.
4th attempt: Roughly two hours later. A new technician comes, I explain what happened and pass along the information. The whole process starts over again as he verifies the morning technician’s work. Then he tells me that there’s nothing else he can do so he files a ticket to fix the light source issue.
5th attempt: Next morning, a service center calls me to apologize for the inconvenience and say they’re dispatching a technician to fix the pole issue in the morning. I asked if they needed to go inside to activate the modem, which he said they will call if they need to. At 12:30 pm, morning has passed by, and still no internet. Around 3:30 pm, a technician called that he is on the way to finish the installation. Things were finally done.
Dissecting this experience
The expectation is a technician comes and installs the fiber connection instead of being bounced around like a hot potato. Without knowing the internal workings, the blackbox experience seem to be that technicians are dispatched to customers with two-hour windows. Maybe some technicians take longer to finish their installation because of surprises that may come up such as having a bad signal. It’s safe to assume that a technician has multiple scheduled installations per day and a computer assigns one technician to a bunch of appointments that have locations close together. The root issue is not having enough technicians and scheduling too many customers in one day. A well designed system would schedule appointments based on how many technicians are available and provide some buffer in case appointments run longer than expected.
Tip: From my experience, schedule the earliest time slot (8:00 am to 10:00 am) to avoid potential delays.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to stick with the same technician through the entire installation. Instead, the new technician assigned doesn’t have the context and has to verify the previous work done. The customer experience would be better if there was a single technician instead of dealing with multiple technicians over and over. It also would solve the issue if the person gets kicked off due to a system glitch. Although, it’s understandable that a different technician is needed to fix the issue on the pole.
The customer service department can’t get information from the dispatch center is a bad design. The only thing the customer service representative was able to do is offer to reschedule the appointment, which isn’t useful for people experiencing appointment delays. At the very least, they should be able to get an ETA of when a technician will arrive.
Overall, the customer experience is best described as a complete disaster. The delays seemed to be unavoidable unless the earliest time slot was chosen. It would have been better if I had the same technician throughout the process that knew what happened. The customer support department was completely useless at resolving my issue about the delays and getting helpful information like an actual ETA.