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Virtually Helpful.

The future of customer service? Perhaps it's live chat. AT&T customers can now get help via the Internet. The question: Is it live or . . . something else? Here, a Fast Company correspondent encounters a representative identified as "Pam B." AT&T thoughtfully provided an automated transcript.

Session ID: 411562

11:11:48 a.m.

"Thank you for contacting AT&T. Your agent is now ready to assist you."

11:12:53 a.m.

Customer: "Please tell me how much it would cost to get a second line put in, and what do I do to get it done?"

11:13:13 a.m.

Customer service representative (CSR): "I would be glad to help you with that."

11:14:28 a.m.

CSR: "Thank you for your patience."

11:15:03 a.m.

CSR: "To install a second line, there is a charge of $13.50."

11:15:15 a.m.

Customer: "How is this more efficient than taking my call?"

11:15:53 a.m.

Customer: "So what do I do?"

11:16:37 a.m.

CSR: "You need to call 1-866-887-9817, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and request a second line."

11:16:45 a.m.

Customer: "Hellooooooooooo? Are you human?"

11:17:22 a.m.

CSR: "I'm sorry, did you not receive my last message?"

11:17:54 a.m.

Customer: "I did—but are you human or a computer?"

11:18:57 a.m.

CSR: "To order a second line, you need to call 1-866-887-9817 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday."

11:19:15 a.m.

Customer: "Hah—you're a computer! Knew it."

11:20:22 a.m.

CSR: "If you have no further questions, I would like to thank you for using AT&T."

11:21:08 a.m.

Customer: "I have a question: Why does AT&T pretend I'm chatting with a human?"

11:21:13 a.m.

CSR: "And I am not a computer. Thank you for using AT&T."

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