EVP of customer care discusses T-Mo’s success

FORT WORTH, TEx.–As T-Mobile US has catapulted itself ahead of other wireless carriers in customer growth, its customer care and engagement strategy has been a fundamental part of its “un-carrier” positioning. Callie Field, EVP of customer care for T-Mobile US, discussed some of that strategy during a keynote at the Competitive Carriers Association conference.

T-Mobile US positioned itself as a consumer advocate against an industry that was “stupid, broken and worst of all, arrogant. Carriers screwed their customers and it wasn’t fair,” Field said. She said that T-Mobile US started to listen to its customers and address their pain points, as well as listening to front-line representatives to learn what processes and procedures were getting in their way while they tried to solve customers’ problems.

“These things didn’t happen overnight, and some of them were pretty risky,” Field said, noting in particular T-Mobile US’ move to end customer contracts and shift to unlimited plans. But, she said, the carrier has taken the position that “this isn’t just a promotion we’re throwing out … to take it back if it doesn’t suit us.”

Now, she said the other carriers “are all copying our moves, even if they are kind of poor knock-offs.”

T-Mobile US is increasing its coverage (at 316 million potential customers covered, on its way to 321 million by the end of the year, Field said) and starting to get its 600 MHz network underway. She said that T-Mobile US expects to have two handsets with 600 MHz support before the holiday sales season, and she added that the 600 MHz sites are being “launched with 5G-ready equipment” so that the carrier will be able to rapidly turn on the first nationwide 5G network in the U.S. She also said that despite an overall retail trend toward online shopping, T-Mobile US has heard from its customers that they want a “robust retail experience” — so the carrier is in the midst of a major retail expansion. T-Mobile US is opening several thousand new T-Mobile US-branded and MetroPCS-branded retail stores, with more locations in more than 80 new cities, she said.

The retail experience, Field said, has to be “fresh, interesting and fast” while serving as both a hub for showcasing the brand and a fulfillment center.

Field said that T-Mobile US has also changed the modes by which it communicates with its customers, with a focus on text messaging and its application, as well as helping customers who want to do self-service to do as much as possible on their own. Field said that with the release of the iPhone 8, about 30% of device upgrades were done through the T-Mobile US app — which meant that her customer care reps were able to head home a few hours early.

“We have to meet our customers where they are,” she said.

That includes social media, where the carrier has 24/7 support on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and is on track to have more than 8 million social media engagements with customers by the end of this year, but from about 600,000 in 2014. She added that 65% of T-Mobile US’ interactions are positive — compared to Verizon, at 26% positive interactions according to Field. She said that T-Mobile US has been able to trim the number of customer care calls per customer by 31% since 2011.

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