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AT&T Wireless: 2015 Customer Service Report Card

Cellphone Support Showdown 2015: Who Wins, Who Loses?
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With 120.6 million subscribers as of the end of 2014, AT&T has a lot of customers to support. Thankfully, on almost every front, AT&T's customer service did a bang-up job of responding to inquiries for help in our customer-service testing, often going beyond expectations.

I evaluated AT&T's support by looking for answers on how to get photos off a Samsung Galaxy S5 and how to change a current plan. I looked for answers by searching AT&T's website, using the company's online-chat feature, interacting on the carrier's social networks and placing calls to its tech-support number, all in an effort to replicate experiences an actual customer might face in trying to solve a problem. Here's what I found out.—Sam Rutherford

Online Support

AT&T's website provides the most readily available source of information, with a big tab for support at the top, and a quick, streamlined approach to finding important information. After logging in, users are presented with an easy-to-digest dashboard showing their billing status in the top right and a drop-down menu for fast access to important topics such as usage info, their current plan and profile, support, and shopping. If you choose not to log in, you can still access much of the support information, such as device tutorials and troubleshooting; the site just won't be tailored with specific info about your device and plan.

MORE: How AT&T Fared in Our 4G Network Testing

Changing your plan is as simple as selecting the View My Plan options from the Manage My Plan choice in the drop-down menu and hitting the blue Change Plan button. From there, you can see a detailed breakdown of your plan, including current usage info and even your average data consumption for the past three months.

Looking for technical support for a device was even easier. The Samsung Galaxy S5 I used for this test was listed right on the main overview page, with a link below inviting me to learn how to use my device. Clicking the link took me to a portal with step-by-step instructions (and sometimes video tutorials) on how to perform important tasks such as making calls, setting a password, importing contacts and more. There's also a video tour, which highlights the important features of your device.

When I looked for information on how to get photos off the phone, all I had to do was scroll down to the Music, Photos and Video section and select the choice detailing how to transfer media to and from a computer. This brought up a list describing how to connect the GS5 to a computer via USB cord, and how to drag and drop photos to a PC.

Next, I tried AT&T's live chat, which offers tech support from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET on weekends. (Advanced tech support for tougher issues is available between 6 a.m. and 3 a.m. ET.) I spoke to Melinda M., who patiently walked me through the use of AT&T Data Locker, allowing me to upload all of my photos and videos to the carrier's cloud-storage server (with space for up to 50GB of media).

Melinda also advised me to set up Google data syncing so that my pictures and videos would be automatically backed up, along with a link to a Google support article on how to set it up.

Social Media Support

With the huge amount of users on AT&T's network, I wasn't expecting expedient responses to my posts on the carrier's Twitter and Facebook pages. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got a reply to my tweet to the @ATTCares handle in just eight minutes — the middle of the pack for carrier responsiveness on Twitter. @ATTCares suggested using the myAT&T app on my phone or going to myatt.com before offering additional help via direct messages or by phone if I wanted.

I also tweeted at the standard @ATT handle with the same question, and received a response from the @ATTCares account after 19 minutes. So even if you direct your tweets at the wrong AT&T account, there's still a good chance you'll get a helpful, if slightly delayed, reply.

When I posted on AT&T's Facebook Page, the response came in a still timely 15 minutes, which was not as fast as Sprint's Facebook reply to our question but faster than T-Mobile's and Verizon's responses. AT&T's response offered multiple suggestions and a link to AT&T's Mobile Transfer app. Less helpful was the extra space in the TinyURL link sent by AT&T that prevented the linked Web page from loading.

MORE: Best Smartphones on the Market Now

Still, I was surprised with the speed and info from the AT&T social media team, especially considering the clunky nature of Twitter and Facebook, which aren't exactly conducive to comprehensive support.

Phone Support

Like Verizon, AT&T pegs its call support to your phone number, meaning a live tech-support rep is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Verizon offers an extra hour of service on weekdays compared to AT&T, though it's open for fewer hours on weekends.

I placed my first call to AT&T's customer service at 2:45 p.m. EDT to ask them about changing my plan. After I sat through a few automated queries about the nature of my call and my account info, a representative named Amanda, who was located in Dallas, fielded my call.

Maybe it was Texan hospitality or AT&T's training, but my 8 minute 30 second conversation with Amanda was one of the most fruitful exchanges I've ever had with customer service anywhere. She carefully explained my options and how I could save money by reducing my data to a 6GB-per-month plan, which still left me some breathing room based on the average amount of data I use each month, a figure Amanda was able to provide.

She even candidly explained that sometimes store agents try to push more-expensive phones and plans on customers, and directed me to a AT&T's Value Calculator so I could get a visual representation of different plans. She wasn't even perturbed when I ended the call by saying I wanted to think about my options. 

I called AT&T a second time a week later, outside traditional business hours, at 9:06 p.m. EDT. After wading through questions from the AT&T automated receptionist again, I hit 0 to talk to a live support agent and was almost immediately connected to Jasmine in Nevada. When I asked her for help transferring photos from my Galaxy S5 to another phone, she swiftly directed me to the AT&T Data Locker App, carefully walking me through how to use it, and even asked me about my photos while we waited for them to get uploaded to the cloud. After nine minutes, I finished the transfer and bid Jasmine a good night and thanks for the fast and accurate assistance.

Bottom Line

I've been an AT&T customer since 2009. I've never really needed help from tech support, but it's nice to know that if I have an issue now, I can expect good customer support, whether online or on the phone. Customer-support agents on social media responded quickly to my posts, and I never had to wait more than 10 seconds to be connected to a representative on the phone. But the most impressive part of AT&T's support was the patience and hospitality that I got from the company's agents, especially those on the phone.

Table of Contents

• Introduction
• AT&T

• Sprint
• Verizon
• T-Mobile
• Cricket
• Boost Mobile
• Virgin Mobile
• Straight Talk
• Metro PCS

Follow @SamRutherford on Twitter, and @Tom’s Guide on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Display all 5 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    SamAxe , June 11, 2015 8:06 AM
    It seems odd that this review includes both the support knowledge base and the online chat representative experience together in Online Support. Online chat is another method for contacting customer support, like via Phone or Social Media. The support knowledge base is for self-help. I feel like these should be scored separately.
  • 0 Hide
    Gerry Allen , June 11, 2015 10:11 AM
    Hmm...it's odd that the best-rated cellular phone company in the US was left out -- Consumer Cellular. Consumer Reports rates their customer service far above those in this report.
  • 0 Hide
    PhilipMichaels , June 16, 2015 2:03 PM
    Quote:
    It seems odd that this review includes both the support knowledge base and the online chat representative experience together in Online Support. Online chat is another method for contacting customer support, like via Phone or Social Media. The support knowledge base is for self-help. I feel like these should be scored separately.


    It's an interesting point, and one we'll likely consider on future customer service rankings.
  • 0 Hide
    PhilipMichaels , June 16, 2015 2:10 PM
    Quote:
    Hmm...it's odd that the best-rated cellular phone company in the US was left out -- Consumer Cellular. Consumer Reports rates their customer service far above those in this report.


    It didn't make the cut this time out, as it's somewhat of a niche player at this point. We'll likely consider adding new carriers to these rankings as the market evolves.
  • 0 Hide
    jprah , July 7, 2015 11:30 AM
    A unique prepaid service that offers excellent customer service is GIV Mobile. GIV Mobile is an affordable option starting at just $20/month for unlimited talk and text for users who are looking for a no-contract wireless service. Plus, 8% of each customer’s monthly plan amount is donated to up to three charities of their choice. Charities like the Kids in Need Foundation, The Academy of Natural Sciences, the Alzheimer’s Association and more are continuing to receive support by GIV Mobile and their customers.
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