The other night, I was using my Adium account to do some IMing with some colleagues when it suddenly threw me out and asked for my password.
My Adium was set up with my Yahoo account, which was actually an SBC global account from back when I had Internet service with them over 10 years ago. I had cancelled the account when we moved from the Midwest, but I maintained the account for free because it had 10 years of email in it.
So when Adium threw me out, it asked for my account password. When I put it in, it didnt’ accept it. I tried accessing the account through my phone, and my phone was no longer giving me email because of the now incorrect password. I went back to my laptop and tried to access the account through the Yahoo login page, but that failed as well.
Obviously, something had changed my password.
The next day, I called Yahoo, and I was immediately transferred to AT&T when they realized it was a legacy AT&T account.
They answered the phone right away, and after about 20 minutes, I was able to learn that the account still existed, which was a relief. I simply needed the password reset. The man on the phone gave me a site URL to go to where I could reset my password, but it didn’t work.
Both the site and the man on the phone were asking me to verify information like my old account number, home address or old phone numbers. I gave them all of the last 15 years worth of addresses and phone numbers, but none of it was working. Since I couldn’t give him any information that was matching his records, he said he was unable to help.
I asked him if he was able to open my email account because through my phone, I was still able to read the old messages I had received prior to losing access. I told him I could tell him great detail about all of the email in the account. He kept telling me he couldn’t open the email because I couldn’t prove who I was.
My point to him wasn’t to see if he was allowed to open it. I wanted to know if he was technically able to open it. Could it be opened by anyone at AT&T. It seemed to me that someone there had to have permission. No good. They wouldn’t do it.
I continued to press on them because my theory was that someone had hacked my account and taken it over. I wanted to know what they would do in that case. If someone had gone into my account and changed all of the information, how could I possibly verify any of it. That concept was lost on the man on the phone.
He kept trying to get off the phone because, to him, this was going nowhere and I kept pressing. Somewhere in our conversation, he informed me that since I had a free account, there was no support for me, but if I was still a paying Internet subscriber, they would reset my password for me.
Then he decided we were done. But I had another idea.
I called again and decided I would subscribe and get their home Internet service so I would become a paying member again. As a paying member, they would be able and willing to reset my account.
When the woman asked for the address at which I wanted the Internet service, I gave her my current home address – only to learn they don’t provide service at this address.
So I gave her my old home address where I had the service, but she told me they don’t serve that address either. I asked her where do they serve so I could pick an address there. She told me it doesn’t work that way. They don’t know where they offer service, they can only find that out as customers give them individual addresses to serve.
Basically, if I wanted to get service to become a paying customer to get my email password reset before I would then cancel my service, I needed a valid address. I tried my parents, but that wasn’t in their service area, either.
Finally, I told the woman, “look, I’m trying to hook up Internet service so I can become a paying customer so I can get someone to reset my email password so I can use my account. As soon as I become a paying customer, I’m going to get my password reset and then cancel the service. So let’s avoid all of that and just reset my password now.”
She said it doesn’t work like that. I can’t just pick an address. Apparently, you can’t sign up for an account and pay them right away. Taking the bait, I asked that age old question that has vexed society for generations – when does a person become a paying customer?
Turns out the answer is that you are only a paying customer after a technician comes to your house and hooks up your Internet. Then you’re not only paying for service, but also for the modem and other equipment.
I asked her if that’s all refundable, and she told me most of it is. I reasserted that this seems like an awful lot of work to simply reset my password. She told me to hold and said she’d get a technician to see what they could do.
After a few minutes, a woman got on the phone and asked me what the problem was. I told her my password was suddenly changed, and I couldn’t access my account. I needed my password reset. Going on, I shared my theory that if my account was compromised, and my information changed, how could I give them any information to prove I was who I said I was. The only thing I could do was tell her what email was in it.
She then said, “let me reset your password… that should help.”
She reset my password, and after 2 hours on the phone arguing and pleading with several different AT&T employees, it was fixed… simple as that.
And the lesson, as far as I could tell, was this – if you want decent customer service, keep calling until you get someone on the phone who doesn’t care about the protocols and rules and is more interested in using their common sense to fix the problem confronting them.
- My name is Jon Friesch, and I take on complex and unusual customer service problems as a hobby.
The other night, I was flying home from Irvine, CA and chatting with a few people on IM from my laptop. I use Adium to chat through my Yahoo account.
I was in mid-conversation when all of a sudden I was thrown out and asked for a password. When I entered my password – the same password I had used for the past 10 years (I know, not secure) – it was rejected. So I tried to go into my Yahoo email through my phone and that didn’t work either. I went back to my laptop and tried to get in through the Yahoo mail page, and I was informed my username and password didn’t match.
For reasons I can’t explain, my password had been reset, and I couldn’t figure out through the site help how to change it. I needed to get it fixed, though, because not only was over 10 years of email sitting in that account, but it was also what I used for my IM account, and without it, I would have lost all of my IM contacts for work.
The next morning, I called Yahoo and went through their automated customer service. When I chose the reset password on my sbcglobal account, I was sent directly to AT&T customer service.
I immediately got a person, which was encouraging. But in my experience with customer service, it’s not about just getting a person, it’s about getting a person who doesn’t care what it takes to solve your problem.
The first person I spoke to listened to my problem. I told him that I had originally opened the account when I was an SBC customer. I had my Internet service with them back when I lived in the midwest. It’s been four years since I had their Internet service, but I kept the email account after I dropped the service. In that time, SBC merged with Yahoo, so I now log in through the Yahoo site.