Guest Editorial From A T-Mobile Front-Line Employee, Three Ways To Boost T-Mobile Up



Editors Note: This post is a guest editorial written by a T-Mobile front-line employee regarding life on — the front-line. Tackling three separate, but equally important issues, this anonymous guest posts hopes to explain why the iPhone is important, why phone manufacturers need to step up their game and how there is actual “value” in T-Mobile’s Value Plans. Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of TmoNews.  

Reporting From The Frontlines

I remember sitting in a packed hotel banquet hall when T-Mobile CEO Phillip Humm stood before an audience of a thousand of his T-mobile frontline men and women and informed us all of our 2011 goal of being “challengers”. The excitement was high, and we left that place believing that if we all did our part, we really could make a difference.

The feeling wouldn’t last too long as only a couple of week’s later At&t would announce its plans to acquire T-Mobile USA. To put it bluntly, if felt like a smack in the face. For a few months afterwards, uncertainty of what was to come began to sink in and the company really didn’t feel like itself anymore. It felt as if the acquisition had already gone through.

On the frontlines we didn’t feel like the same work force who helped to earn all of the consecutive JD Powers and Associates awards for customer service. We were just another cog in the machine… a machine that was getting prepped to be handed over to At&t.

Eventually, when reality finally settled in, and more details as to how the acquisition would play out in the long run, instead of dragging our feet any longer we lowered are heads and buckled down for the long haul. Customers would come in say “hey where’s the iPhone, didn’t At&t buy you guys” and we’d jokingly say back “no, we bought them.” It was our way of making light of the situation while continuing to press on; business as usual.

Now that the acquisition has been canceled faster than a bad sitcom on NBC, this year looks as bright as ever. I’ve seen comments on articles all over the web about how T-Mobile has “changed”, or  how it’s “not what it used to be” especially when it comes to how we treat our customers, but you should all know that not only will we bounce back, we’re going to be better than ever.

While the acquisition has been eliminated from the equation, not everything is perfect. We have some issues that need to be addressed, and quickly. I’ll outline three of the biggest. If met, these adjustments can help mold 2012 into one of the best years ever for T-Mobile.
The iPhone Effect.

I’m not going to sit here crying and pleading like most about why T-Mobile needs the iPhone, because the reality is that five years later Cupertino’s iconic device is still selling strong and for the whole time T-Mobile continued to carry on without it. I’m not a naive card-carrying member of the Android army either, actually I’m one of the poor saps that paid $600 (on-contract) when the iPhone originally launched in 2007, so trust when I say that I have plenty of love for iOS. And while I think it’s a compelling piece of hardware, and understand why people have such a strong emotional connection to it, there are many misconceptions about what the iPhone would actually bring to T-Mobile.

Some folks are under the impression that if the device makes it to the Magenta side of the fence it would become some kind of golden goose that will catapult the company out of 4th place. Realistically, this just isn’t so. What the iPhone will do is help the company reduce churn, significantly.

I wish I earned a dollar every time a four or five line family plan customer comes in to my store to request their account number (for an obvious port out to another carrier). I try to provide as many reasons as possible as to why they should not leave the T-Mobile family using value, devices, and customer service as my ammunition. Even going as far as filling out value comparison charts to show what they would be paying for comparable (or in most cases less) services if they switched.

And then it happens…

Then the customer’s son, daughter, husband, father, — whoever — will say something along the lines of “I don’t care” or “they don’t have it, let’s go.” Then the account holder apologizes, thanks me for my time, and walks out. I always feel bad for these account holders, who – because of other people on their account, end up shelling out up to six hundred, eight hundred, sometimes one thousand dollars worth of cancellation fees (5 lines), just for an iPhone.

The thing is that if T-Mobile had the device, it would eliminate the need for that conversation all together. Those who are fixated on the iPhone would be pleased, and those who chose T-Mobile for being the value player in the market will continue to be happy and satisfied. It’s really that simple. If we ever “needed” the iPhone, it would only be for that.

Phone manufacturers need to step their game up.

In October of this year, the Android platform will be celebrating it’s 4th birthday. In that time we’ve seen phones in all shapes, sizes, and price points. Android has evolved from a “me too” mobile O.S. to being the king of the mobile landscape (and marketshare). While AT&T was busy milking their iPhone exclusivity, we were busy launching the first ever Android phone ( the G1), but since then it seems like we’ve sat and watched from the sidelines as every other carrier would release a new flagship Android phone, one after the other.

While things have managed to get better recently (2011 provided for a decent smartphone lineup from T-Mobile), it seems as though the OEMs prefer to put themselves directly in the line of fire by launching their very best devices on carriers who’s customers are already infatuated with the iPhone and could now care less about Android.

And then when these devices, from all of the various OEMs, fail to leave a dent on sales numbers, what do they do? They sell even more of their more “iconic” phones to those same carriers.

Phone manufactures need to wake up. Following the release of the Siri-powered 4S, according to NPD, Apple is gunning for the top spot in U.S. market share. And while T-Mobile remains to be iPhone-less for the time being, now that the At&t acquisition is a thing of the past, it seems like those days of lacking the iPhone are probably numbered.

As an OEM, whenever you look T-Mobile’s way, what you should be seeing, is opportunity. And it’s something that you need to relish in while you still can. Cost is now a non-issue as the value plans are designed perfectly to compliment the budget of any buyer.

Bring your “iconic” devices to a carrier who’s customers actually want them, or miss out completely.

Value Plans For the Win.

The final piece of the puzzle are the value plans, and mostly the complexity that surrounds them. Customers have enough issues understanding them, but as a sales force, representatives in stores need to be taught the appropriate way of presenting them in the first place. Simply saying “its cheaper… but you have to pay full price for the phone and you never get an upgrade” is certainly not the most appealing way to present it; but from what I’m seeing, hearing, and reading, its apparently a common occurrence out there.

In the current economic climate people are looking for any way to save, and right now in wireless, there isn’t a single rate plan on any national carrier that comes close to the value plans at T-Mobile. To make it work and really make sense, customers need to be shown the actual value. And of course there are still those one-off cases where a customer’s legacy plan with subsidized phones is still the best thing for him or her, but those particular cases aren’t too common. The minute you start talking data and features, the value plans are your best friend.

Just for laughs here’s a theoretical rate plan if the iPhone were made available on T-Mobile. IPhone 4S retails for $599. On Value, the initial down payment would be $199 (just like everywhere else), with a 20 month payment plan of a flat rate of 20 bucks per month. The rate plan would be 59.99 (plus any applicable taxes) along with the device payment. So that’s 79.99 for 20 months, then it lowers to just 59.99 for the other four months on a 24 month agreement. Over the 2 year contract, the customer would pay $1,839.76 (excluding taxes) plus the initial $199 that was plunked down at the point of sale which gives us a grand total of 2,038.76.

So what would it cost for the same device and comparable services from the carriers who “subsidize” the phone cost? I’m using the unlimited calling plans as an example, and not the mobile-to-mobile “unlimited” plans that At&t and Sprint are pushing. The results shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Verizon: $119.99 for 24 months, $199 for the phone gives you a total of 3,078.76. AT&T: $114.99 for 24 months, $199 for the phone give you a total of 2,958.76. Sprint: $109.99 for 24 months, $199 for the phone give you total of $2,838.76. While Sprint may be the lowest of the three, the total cost of the plan and phone over 2 years is still $800 dollars more than our beloved value plan. I don’t know about you but I can think of a ton of things that I’d rather do with $800.

The numbers speak for themselves. The savings over the competition is as clear as day. Now, it’s just on T-Mobile to make sure that customers are educated and shown what really sets magenta apart from the rest. Value plans for the win.

Looking Ahead.

These are just a few of things that can help T-Mobile in the next year. I’m sure there are plenty more thoughts, ideas, and suggestions that can be brought to the forefront, but these three —  straight from the frontlines — should be at the very top of the list. If addressed, T-Mobile will be on the up and up for 2012 and finally be truly ready to be a challenger.

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