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T-Mobile Knows Phone Company Customer Service Stinks -- but It Has a Plan

By Daniel B. Kline – Aug 17, 2018 at 6:05AM

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The wireless carrier's new strategy to make it less painful for customers to interact with it will be expensive, but CEO John Legere thinks it'll be worth it.

Hearing a robot tell you "Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line" as you sit on interminable hold ranks among everyday life's more frustrating experiences. It's followed closely on the annoyance-generation chart, however, by being told by that same automated voice that "The information you need may be on our website," or getting transferred endlessly between "service" reps who can't fix your problem.

T-Mobile (TMUS) CEO John Legere wants to fix that for his cell phone company by replacing the current model with a system that's actually about serving customers, not simply getting them off the phone. To do that, he has launched "Team of Experts," which features customer service delivered by real people T-Mobile describes in a press release as "a tight-knit team dedicated to you and others in your city."

"People are fed up with horrible customer service that puts cost control ahead of customer happiness. While other brands mechanize customer service, we're going the other way -- no bots, no bouncing, no BS," he said.

T-Mobile's John Legere and Sprint's Marcelo Claure

T-Mobile CEO John Legere (left) will bring "Team of Experts" to Sprint if the merger goes through. Image source: T-Mobile.

What is T-Mobile doing?

Legere's company is again following its "Un-carrier" blueprint of aggressively attacking customer pain points. During the press conference debuting "Team of Experts," he contrasted this approach not only to those of his traditional wireless rivals AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), but also cable companies, specifically Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

As a group, cable and internet service providers sit firmly at the bottom of the 46 industries and 10 economic sectors ranked annually by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). In fact, even the top scoring companies in the internet, cable, and wireless phone categories put up scores that would rank poorly in other industries.

T-Mobile sees eliminating automation as the first step in fixing that. Henceforth, customer calls will be directed to a person, who will set a time when a member of your "team" will call you back. The company is also ending its practice of ranking its customer service reps based on how fast they either transfer or end calls. Instead, reps will be graded based on how well they solve problems and keep customers happy. In addition, T-Mobile's new service will operate 24/7, and it will offer customers the option of interacting with support personnel through instant message via the T-Mobile app or iMessage.

"Team of Experts isn't just better customer service. It's an entirely new way of thinking about customers ... one that puts your happiness at the center of everything we do," said Customer Care Executive Vice President Callie Field in the press release.

T-Mobile being T-Mobile

As Legere explained, his company's Un-carrier moves aren't solely for the benefit of its customers -- he sees them as a way to encourage his  industry to change. That was how matters played out when it made customer-friendly changes to its policies on wireless contracts, unlimited data, and overage billing. Rivals followed suit. In this case, T-Mobile has offered to share its patent-pending technology with the other cell carriers.

Legere acknowledged that entirely human-delivered customer service will be more expensive in the short term. However, he asserts, when you take a longer view, that investment pays off by creating happier, more loyal customers.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends T-Mobile US. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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