What T-Mobile’s New Strategy Gets Right about Customer Service

Authored by Raquel Guarino

Published on September 6, 2018

Most people don’t have positive feelings about call centers. Industry research shows that 90% of customers don’t like talking to interactive voice menus, which is a nearly universal experience in corporate customer service. According to Marchex, the average American will waste 12 days of their life just waiting on hold. T-Mobile CEO John Legere recently announced some major changes to their customer care that he thinks will revolutionize the way customers feel about reaching out to his company. Legere announced that the phone company is getting rid of bots, the dreaded phone menu, and call bouncing.

How does that translate for customers? According to Legere, that means “no BS.” Instead of gritting your teeth as you say “Representative” for the umpteenth time, T-Mobile is introducing a so-called “Team of Experts.” Replacing the traditional call center model where a rep is overly specialized in one area–which results in a neverending tangle of redirecting and call routing—the Team of Experts is a generalized group of employees dedicated to working with people in your region. Now when you call T-Mobile, you connect directly with a rep that you work with throughout your call. That means you don’t need to re-explain yourself every time you connect with someone new.

Help.com’s CEO Adam Farrar thinks that centering the customer service model around the customer’s experience, rather than customer avoidance, is the way to go:

“I’d say the biggest thing I take away from this move is really just reducing barriers–and even removing them in some cases–between real conversations. Lots of big organizations put a ton of time and effort into deflecting conversations versus actually talking to their customers and educating them. Making support an easy experience for customers is paramount.”

Does this mean that companies should get rid of their self-help services altogether? Farrar says not so fast.

“Self-help is a great tool when used properly. It becomes risky when you start using it as a tool to stop customers from talking to a real person. Instead, consider it another communication channel, and make it as contextual and accessible as possible. The reality is the growing majority would rather self-service than call, but when they have exhausted their options, adding extreme barriers to connecting with a person will always leave a bad taste in their mouth.”

And it seems as though T-Mobile customers would agree. The self-proclaimed “Un-carrier” says they’ve seen their Net Promoter Scores jump an unprecedented 56% after testing their new model with small customer groups and businesses between 2016 and 2018.

Another interesting find is that this new strategy of more direct customer contact has already started to pay off in the form of lowered costs to serve. T-Mobile boasts that in Q2 of 2018, customer service costs for postpaid customers were the lowest they’d ever been. They claim that receiving fewer calls and callbacks per account is the reason behind it.

In a playful knock on its competitors, T-Mobile says they’re planning to share their customer service strategy blueprints with AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon. Whether they’d actually compare notes is up in the air, but we can only hope that these big league competitors see the benefits of direct customer service interactions and follow suit.

What are your thoughts on T-Mobile’s move? What can support and sales organizations do to improve their customer service?

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