T-Mobile announced its latest “Un-carrier” initiative today in a fresh attempt to gain new subscribers and lure customers away from rival providers. And it focuses on a crucial, but less flashy subject than the company’s past splashes: customer service. From a stage in Charleston, South Carolina — and after being escorted into the room by a marching band — CEO John Legere kicked off an event that led to the announcement of Team of Experts, a new approach to customer service that will give customers in different regions of the US their own dedicated “team” of customer care representatives who offer quick, efficient assistance. No robot voices and no confusing tree of push-button menus.
Team of Experts launches today for T-Mobile’s postpaid customers. It can be accessed by dialing 611 or by messaging directly from the T-Mobile app or iMessage using Apple Business Chat. For now, Team of Experts is English-only, but it will be available in Spanish in early 2019.
“The first thing I did when I became CEO of this company is I spent every night sitting at home listening to both sides of customer service calls,” Legere said. “I listed, we acted, and we heard. That’s the foundation for what we’re going to do today.”
No more hammering the 0 button or begging a robot to let you speak to actual people
Moments later, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert took the stage to criticize the “massive digital fortress between you and the people who can help you” that is a central part of customer service from most major companies. T-Mobile recruited Rainn Wilson to film a pretty great spot (seen above) that showcases average, miserable customer service experiences. Sievert pointed to bots, call center runarounds, and obvious, unhelpful reminders about finding answers on the internet as widespread problems.
Then came Callie Field, T-Mobile’s executive VP of customer care, who said “we’ve fixed it,” and went into the details of Team of Experts.
How Team of Experts works
“You’ll never be bounced from department to department, you’ll have a team of experts that will completely own your experience end to end,” Field said. “If you call back the next day, it’s going to go right back to the same team. They’re going to make sure that it is solved and that you’re happy with the resolution.”
T-Mobile’s new customer service teams are divided by geography. Each person on a team is “highly trained to handle a wide range of topics, sometimes working with specialists including local retail and engineering to solve even the most complex issues,” according to the company. Members of each team all work in close proximity at the customer care center, according to Field. You might not talk to the same person every time, but they should be up to date on what you’ve called about previously.
Customers can reach their Team of Experts from 7AM to 9PM local time by phone or messaging. “In early 2019, postpaid customers will get Team of Experts support 24/7,” the company says. (Standard customer service is available 24/7) They also have the option to schedule calls for a convenient time. This is actually the default approach that T-Mobile seems to prefer. “If you don’t pick up the phone, that’s cool, we’ll call you 5 minutes later. And if you’re busy then too, we’ll call 5 minutes after that,” Field said.
Team of Experts doesn’t mean you’ll always call a number and start talking to a live human instantly. “Sometimes there’s some things you can’t avoid — like wait times. Because let’s face it, sometimes your team’s just busy,” Field acknowledged. “The difference is that when we’re busy, we’ll promise to you that we’ll handle you in a way that puts your time first. Our default option is that when you call, instead of waiting for us, schedule a time and we’ll call you back. So it’s your time — not our time — that matters.”
This isn’t (yet) completely phasing out T-Mobile’s current support infrastructure; the standard options — including automated menus — will remain available for those who prefer them.
Rewinding to earlier, Legere clearly relished his first live presentation in some time, berating and taking his signature hold-no-punches digs at T-Mobile’s competition. “We’re in what I’d call the post-unlimited/pre-5G era,” Legere said. “It’s been a year since the industry, I would say, shit themselves and all went to unlimited.” Legere was referencing the industry-wide return to unlimited data after T-Mobile launched its T-Mobile One plan in 2016.
The moves are T-Mobile’s latest effort to keep up the pressure against Verizon and AT&T. The company claims it has led the industry for 18 straight quarters in adding postpaid mobile customers, taking on 686,000 new subscribers in the most recent quarter.
T-Mobile’s emphasis on customers comes amid the review of its proposed merger with Sprint
T-Mobile, the third-largest US carrier, is also hoping to successfully push through a merger with fourth-place Sprint; both carriers insist that the deal would expedite the buildout of a robust, nationwide 5G network and lead to healthier, more balanced competition with their two much larger competitors.
Last month, the FCC began accepting public comments on the proposed merger. The Justice Department is currently examining how T-Mobile buying Sprint — leaving consumers with fewer mobile provider choices in the process — might impact prices for smaller carriers in the United States.
Some of T-Mobile’s earlier Un-carrier efforts — the end of two-year contracts and device subsidies, phasing out data overage charges, and zero-rating popular streaming services — have reverberated throughout the US mobile industry and led Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint to at times copy or put their own spin on T-Mobile’s ideas for “shaking up” the carrier model.