I may have been lucky.
Every time I visited a T-Mobile store, I encountered significantly better customer service than AT&T, for example.
It wasn’t that long ago that I visited both an AT&T and T-Mobile store and discovered opposing attitudes towards me as a customer.
Again, I am not a T-Mobile customer. I have been with AT&T longer than healthy. Maybe new faces are more of an attraction than existing customers.
Perhaps also that T-Mobile is now struggling to maintain its image as a little more human than the others.
Bloomberg, you see, Free a slightly grim picture of several factors – internal and external – that have, at least in the eyes of some customers, made T-Mobile customer service marginally hellish.
First, the company merged with Sprint. Some might observe that any carrier merging with Sprint might have been tainted with a diminished image.
Still, it coincided with the departure of – oh, what’s the word? – the flamboyant, ra-ra-ish and imaginatively styled CEO, John Legere.
He emphasized a proactive attitude towards customers. He illustrated it with his populist character on Twitter. He was gone, some might suspect, just when he knew things couldn’t get better and would likely get worse.
And then came the pandemic. Few companies have succeeded in adorning themselves with an additional humanity in an atmosphere where many employees work from home and then quit altogether.
But now there seems to be strong evidence that all is not well at Magenta Mansions.
Perhaps the most striking data comes from American Customer Satisfaction Index. It shows that T-Mobile’s rating drops 5% from 2020 to 2021.
You might think it’s nothing. Or inevitable during a pandemic. But what if I tell you that Verizon’s rating has stayed the same while, panting, AT&T has gone up by one point? Indeed, only US Cellular languished below T-Mobile in the category of mobile network operators.
So it’s hard to digest the words of T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert: “We provide the best service in this industry, regardless of objective measurement. “
Is he suggesting that ACSI is somehow less than objective? And yes, he added words like “thrive” and “grow”.
It’s easy to drift off to the Twitter comments and wonder how bad things could be. Or not. What’s more difficult is to merge with a flawed brand for the glory of money and power, and no longer be an upstart.
T-Mobile has negotiated something that it can no longer be. Indeed, Apple was once an upstart, but had to trade that image for a more global, more corporate, and, frankly, more bland character.
Simultaneously, however, Apple also expanded its customer service capabilities and understood – sometimes very slowly – that as it grew, it needed to respond to customer complaints ever more quickly and with much more sensitivity. .
This path may still be open to T-Mobile. It may be an easier path once the pandemic really subsides. However, it will have to be a path that starts from above and shows a new imagination.
At the end of the day, it’s not a good situation for customers. This is akin to the airline industry, where four US airlines own more than 80% of all seats. The incentive to focus on truly different customer service isn’t as strong as it is for newbies like JetBlue.
In the carrier industry, there are really only three major brands. Everyone, no doubt, is looking forward to more online transactions and less customer-human interactions, thanks to the glories of AI.
Currently, I sense that there is a huge dissatisfaction among the customer service staff of all the major carriers.
Staff at the Big Three brands tell me about understaffing, exponentially more offensive customers, and improper pressure to sell items that customers just don’t need or want.
An optimist might see the current moment as a great branding opportunity for T-Mobile. Pessimists may fear that all three carriers will simply become the same.
I don’t see a non-carrier on the horizon. Do you?