The Best (and Worst) Phone Carrier Customer Support


AT&T took the crown in our last Customer Service Showdown, and we were eager to see if the company could pull off a repeat win. Unfortunately, a new feature that's not as helpful as AT&T would like and some conflicting information marred an otherwise top-notch experience with pleasant and helpful company representatives.

I looked into AT&T's customer service by heading to the company website, social media accounts and customer support line to get answers to two general questions about checking my data usage and adjusting the always-on screen for a Galaxy S7. I also posed a carrier-specific question about bundling my wireless service with other AT&T offerings. Here's how AT&T fared.Sam Rutherford

Online Support (37/40)

AT&T's website continues to offer a wealth of information presented in a relatively easy-to-navigate layout. You can manage your account and access your plan through the website, as well as find a number of tutorials, in both written and video form. You'll also find troubleshooting guides for dozens of other phones, including flagships like the Galaxy S7.

As a result, it was a cinch both getting answers to general carrier questions and  finding info specifically about the Galaxy S7. In case you get a bit lost, AT&T also offers a handy chat service to help guide you around.

MORE: Best Phone Carriers: See How AT&T Stacks Up

After using AT&T's web resources to look up information about the S7's always-on screen and about checking the amount of data I used, I pinged AT&T's chat to see what my options were for bundling my wireless plan with internet/cable service. I was connected almost instantly to a rep named Allyson, and she quickly informed me that I could save 10 percent a month on my total bill if I combined my wireless and cable plans. Then she went the extra mile to check if AT&T U-verse was available in my area (it's not), and after apologizing for the lack of service, she told me that AT&T is working on expanding its coverage areas.

Social Media Support (7/10)

To test out AT&T's social media support, I tried the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts to see what kind of help customers can expect from this increasingly important aspect of customer service. First up was AT&T's Twitter account (@ATTCares), which I contacted to, again, see if the company could help find me a deal by bundling my wireless and internet/cable plans. After a 4-hour wait — not terrible for social media, but not anywhere close to the 8 minutes it took AT&T to reply the last time I tested — AT&T tweeted back, asking me to direct message them with my account number.

Once I sent along that info, I got a reply back with two links describing the wireless and internet/TV bundles currently available. Neither link mentioned the 10 percent discount I was told about during my online chat at AT&T's website, though.

MORE: See How AT&T's 4G Performance Stacks Up

I posed to the same question to AT&T's Facebook page. After several days without a response, I tried the direct-message route instead. The reply came 3.5 hours later, again slower than the 15-minute response time I got when I last time tested AT&T's service. The reply included the same link to AT&T's bundles page, which again made no mention of a deal for 10 percent off.

Phone Support (45/50)

AT&T made a big change to its phone support, which is available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time. A new robo operator attempts to recognize natural speech and direct you to the right department. Two out of the three times I called in, though, the system failed, shuffling me off to the wrong destination. The feature wound up as just another annoying step on the way to talking to a real person.

Once I bypassed the bots, a lovely rep named Regina answered my first call after less than a 2-minute wait on a Tuesday around noon. It took Regina less than 3 minutes to clearly explain three different ways to check my data, even supplying me with info on my data usage over the last three months. This was everything a fruitful phone-support call should be: quick, concise and and helpful.

Average Call Time: 7 minutes

My second call to AT&T took place at 3:10 p.m. on a Wednesday, when I sought info on how to use the Galaxy S7's always-on display. Despite asking about technical support, the robo operator connected me to the wearable department, where, after a short, 1-minute wait, I was connected to a rep named Lisa. While she was quite friendly and eager to help, it became apparent that Lisa wasn't that knowledgeable about the S7, a failing that we can chalk up to the robo operator's routing error.

MORE: Compare AT&T's Phone Plans to Other Carriers

Lisa suggested I try changing the theme on the S7 to see if it affected the always-on display, but that didn't work. Then she took some time to look up information, and after a minute, she correctly pointed me to the always-on setting in the phone's display menu. Lisa then pointed out the Device Help app in the AT&T app folder on the phone — that's how she found the info. All told, the call took 8 minutes, which isn't bad given the initial stumble.

My final call took place outside of normal business hours, at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday, as I tried to get an answer for what had become a surprisingly difficult question to resolve: Are there deals for bundling wireless and cable/internet plans? A support rep named Navi gave me the most definitive answer: There had been a 10 percent discount for combining services, but it expired a couple weeks earlier.

Navi directed me to AT&T's bundles and deals pages for more info on current offers, and also suggested ways I could reduce my data plan to save from $30 to $50 a month. There was no wait to be connected on the call, the robo operator actually worked, and after 10 minutes, I got conclusive information.

Bottom Line

The highlight of AT&T's customer support continues to be almost nonexistent wait times, efficient responses and helpful, easy-to-understand representatives. But the introduction of a robot operator on tech-support calls feels like a step back. AT&T also needs to do a better job informing its reps of what deals are available and when they expire, so customers don't get conflicting information.

Those two stumbles knocked down AT&T's overall customer-support score a little bit this year, but the good news for subscribers is that the carrier still delivers pretty painless customer support.

Tom's Guide Staff

Tom's Guide upgrades your life by helping you decide what products to buy, finding the best deals and showing you how to get the most out of them and solving problems as they arise. Tom's Guide is here to help you accomplish your goals, find great products without the hassle, get the best deals, discover things others don’t want you to know and save time when problems arise. Visit the About Tom's Guide page for more information and to find out how we test products.

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