I Like Plumbing

Not the water kind, the telecom kind.

Right now, I’m in the midst of planning and preparing to move our office to a new location. Since telecom is a lot of setting and forgetting, I’ve been having a great time reviewing the phone numbers we use, what they are used for, deciding if they’ll be needed in the new location and refreshing my memory on some of the details of our Shoretel configuration.

Things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Analog Devices – Our existing office has old 66-blocks wired back to the desks that I’ve used to punch down fax machines and analog polycoms.  Our new office won’t have 66-blocks, so I need to allot space on or LAN racks for connecting the wiring pairs from the harmonica whips on the Shoretel switches.  And make sure that the two cable drops we are doing everywhere is going to be enough for each location.
  • Backup Lines – The phone system will use a regular PRI trunk, but we also have regular POTS lines installed as a backup.  Those need to be grouped in a Hunt Group over at AT&T and the configuration on the DIDs need to allow for roll-over if the PRI goes down.
  • AT&T is moving away from their legacy Centrex Voicemail service and with our move, we can’t retain the few VM boxes we have for external uses. Turns out we’ll only need one (as part of our disaster recovery planning) and I’m fine with having an new number issued on the new Unified Messaging platform AT&T is selling now. 
  • We have a lot of guest phones and old devices on the floor now that won’t be needed in the new office. It’s time for me to wander around and start collecting that up.  Today I have that time, I know in the next few week, I probably won’t.

Hope everyone has a great long weekend filled with turkey, stuffing and pie!

Adventures with at&t

Here’s a story about how a company can have horrible customer service, yet have some wonderful customer service employees all at the same time.  It started over 2 years ago when some at&t representative showed up at our office to review our accounts and help us with our contracts.  Now, I’m no at&t contract expert.  That’s why you have an account rep who does these things for you.  Seriously, telecom contracts are worse that Microsoft licensing. 

Anyway, over 2 years ago, it was suggested that we have an ABN account set up so we can get the most discounts, etc, based on our usage.  As I understood it, this ABN was like an umbrella account over all our other accounts (PRI, Long Distance, Internet) and we got credit for how much we spend or use.  There’s a penalty charge if you don’t use the amount of service you agree on in the contract.  We sign all the necessary paperwork and the representative heads off to get all these goodies set up.  We do our job by continuing to pay our at&t bills as usual.

A year later, I get a mysterious bill for $15,000.  A phone call brings to light that we didn’t meet our “commitment” with the ABN contract, thus the penalty.  I thought this was odd and more digging brought to light that our pre-existing accounts were never brought under that ABN account we signed up for the year before.

I called our representative and found out they were no longer assigned to us.  A new representative, “Daniel”, showed up to our office, reviewed everything and promised to resolve the issue, since it clearly wasn’t our fault the accounts weren’t put under this umbrella.  We were told not to pay the bill and we’d get credited as soon as it was sorted out.  That was almost a year ago.  Every few weeks, I attempt to follow up, only to be told “it’s being worked on.”  I’ve been trusting in at&t to resolve this. 

Moving on, last September we upgraded our Internet service, cancelling our old Frame Relay connection and putting in some nice fresh fiber.  Little did I know, this new account was properly linked to the ABN account.  An account that had a $15,000+ unpaid balance attached to it.  (Can you see where this is going?)

I still haven’t heard anything definitive about our billing dispute and haven’t had a real interaction with our “official” account representative, Daniel, in a long while.  All my contact was with a technical consultant, “Beth”, that was working with my rep, but I digress.

Then in early March, our Internet connection mysteriously dies – at&t cut our service due to the non-payment of the ABN account.  Now, mind you, the account for the Internet service specifically has been paid for every month.  A few calls later to Beth and our Internet was back up.  Beth tells me not to worry, she’ll contact billing and we’ll get this resolved.  It won’t happen again.

Then yesterday, it happens again.  I called Beth and got voice mail.  I left a message.  I called Daniel, got voice mail and left a message.  I called Daniel’s boss and got voice mail.  Left a message.  I called the 800 number for at&t customer service and got “Patrick”.  Patrick rocked.  He pulled up my account, looked at the ridiculous number of notes on it, muttered something under his breath about how crazy it was that I still had a ticket from June of 2010 and went to find a manager.  About a half hour later, I got a call from “Laverne”, who managed to sort enough of it out to get our Internet turned back on. Laverne also rocks.

She couldn’t fix the whole billing issue, but told me that it really needed to be handled by our account team.
I told her I knew that.  And that I’ve left several messages.  Clearly the phone company loves their voice mail features.

I tweeted about this fine event yesterday. I got a response (and a nice phone call) from “Troy” on at&t’s team who’s monitoring people who vent about at&t on social media venues.  Troy lso told me that he’d work on it and I’d have some more information by Monday.  Troy also appears to rock, but that remains to be seen.

So while I appreaciate some of the great service and response I get from some at&t employees, I’m overall really annoyed with at&t in general.  They have too many departments doing too many different things and no one appears to read any notes before they go throwing switches. 

I guess I’ll go leave a few more voice mail messages now.