T-Mobile Customer Service Tax: Ray Legere – This one’s for you

We all know that the wireless / mobile phone (or if you are like me and still caught in the early days: “cell phone”) carriers have really poor customer service. That’s simply a fact. But we try them out anyways, hoping to delay the day when we need to spend our valuable time and energy to dispute something that is important to us and frankly, not important to them.

And while we seek benefits, dividends really, for using the service, we really end up getting taxed at a very high rate; emotionally, hourly and financially.

I’m at that point now. I have been on the phone with T-Mobile for 2:20:37 and still have not been able to resolve my issue. Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s even better when its the middle of their day and the middle of my night and I have been funneled through the same channels over and over again. I am kind of enjoying it, because I will be using T-Mobile extensively as a case study in all my upcoming organizational leadership workshops across the globe.

And finally, I am back to a “payment supervisor”, for the second time, and I think that she has just disconnected me. I told my wife that I am going to pull an all-nighter (She groaned and went to bed, being all too familiar with my organizational nut-case antics). This is just one of those things where the more I try to get my needs met from T-Mobile, the more they end up looking absolutely ridiculous.

You’ve got to understand, at this point, I am not even in the country, and haven’t been for a while, and they’ve been charging me for a service that I never intended to be charged for (nor would it benefit me outside of the U.S.).

They’ve told me about their “strict policies” a couple of times. I think you only need to have one strict policy, Ray: Make the customer feel like the most valuable person on the planet. That’s what your industry fails to do. In fact, I would say that your industry may be more about customer demoralization than it is wireless communication services.

Now, I get that there are always two sides to a story. But really, this is the side paying for it, and in more than one way. So I thought that I might share the love, and the great service.

To be fair, they have 80% resolved the issue that they created when they set up their system to be difficult to understand and a bit manipulative in their favor to get you to use, but 80% is not why I become a customer of a company – I pay them for 100%. And that’s what I want back: 100%.

Ray Legere went public last summer and said that his industry is filled with, well, to put it lightly, “garbage” (only his word sounded more French than “garbage”, and had four letters). And Ray Legere has seemingly done a good job on the numbers for T-Mobile, but right now, I am feeling like I am one of the numbers that they are doing “one” on.

The tough part is that this issue is in most ways, not the fault of the hourly-wage folks on the phones, filing through the queues and following the call scripts and empathic listening responses. They are simply working within the confines of a system that has been set-up to perform a service, and ultimately creates a host of servants that obey its every constraint and ineffectual gate. Both employee and customer become a slave to a system that was intended to serve us, not the other way around!

And so yes, this sort of situation really does lie at the feet of senior managers within an organization, because its their system. If they claim not to know about it, then that shows you how well they are paying attention to how their company works with you and me – the customer.

Who do you want to do business with: someone focused on extracting money and market-share grabs, or someone who is sincerely showing you that they want to have a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with you?

How hard is it, to set-up a system to simply let the customer win in such a way that they absolutely love you, engage you beyond need, advocate you to others, tattoo T-Mobile on their bodies?

It’s not that hard. Right now I would give them a Net Promoter Score of about -30. And a customer effort score (how much effort the customer has to exert in order to get their needs met) of… well, let’s just say that it’s now been 2:31:45 since I began my call. And that is after several weeks of trying to get in the system.

By the way, their customer care team seems to not be operating 24/7. I’m not saying they should. I am just pointing out how much effort they are going to in order to make the customer feel good.

So, what’s the point? Well, if you want a carrier with good coverage, then we all know that it depends on where we live. But if you want to find a carrier that is working FOR YOU, then T-Mobile is simply not it. Not yet, anyways. Ray Legere seems to have set out to turn the industry on its head, but plans and coverage are not where you win in this industry. It’s with people. Make your systems as simple and as painless for customers to deal with, and you just made yourself the undisputed industry leader, entrenched, and protected by the market.

How about you – are your customers, be they business, colleagues, family or friends, paying a tax for interacting with you and trying to utilize whatever value it is you have to offer?

Are you simply following a system and wondering in frustrated circles, never really able to escape the cycle of results that you have been spinning for years?

Or have you turned everything on its head, put those that vote with their wallets in the driver seat and sought for true, long-term success and not merely short-term shareholder value?

Oh yeah, it’s now been 3:17:23. It’s time to go to bed. I’ll call back tomorrow and collect more material from T-Mobile so that MY customers will know what NOT to do.




Alignment, Inclusion and High Performance at Costco.com

One of the great keys to alignment is knowing how your work and the work of others fit together in the bigger picture to drive the organization in a common direction. Its not enough just to know your own goals, but know the goals of the teams and workgroups around you. I rarely find that in organizations, and I have traveled all over the world looking into organizations and their inner workings. Continue reading

3 Golden Rules for Success in 2011

The Golden Rule

I’ve been thinking about what we can do in 2011 to make our organizations more resilient and more prolific when it comes to building smart social and economic ecosystems. When I started to write this post, I thought that I had found the answer in the “Golden Rule” – the maxim of doing to others what we’d want them to do to us if we were in their shoes.  But as I think about it now, the Golden Rule  just may be the line of thinking that is getting us into trouble.  Often, by building organizations according to what we want, we create systems, processes and relationships that actually stand in the way of our long-term success, rather than facilitating it.

Here are three ways to turn the Golden Rule on its head and produce sustainable, mutually beneficial results.

1. Forget about yourself. Think about this in terms of customer interaction, marketing campaigns and acquisition strategies:  How many are designed more for the marketers than for the customers? I’d like to see a number for that, because I have sat through more pitches and plans and messaging schemes whose major quality check was a “Do you like it?” or “Whaddaya think?” aimed at the management team.  No matter how much industry experience you have, no matter how long you’ve ‘led’ in your organization, the things that drive you in your work are not necessarily the same things that drive your customers to buy your product, service or your leadership. Basing your actions on the assumption that you are the same as your customers is naive, at best.

This same thinking can lead us to erroneously go about leading others at work, home or hobby.  Individuals that embark on leadership practices because they themselves feel good about the implementation of such are missing out on developing the needed characteristics required to accomplish repeated extra-ordinary results. Simply put, you may sit in your castle thinking that you’re loved, all the while the villagers are collecting torches and sharpening their pitch forks.  This is especially poignant in the family.

2. Find out who the real relationship should be with. The reason why the situation mentioned  above is so prevalent in every organization throughout the world is because most of us work in management systems and styles that drive us to focus on our individual customer (the person that is signing off on our performance evaluation and employment) rather than the organization’s customer (the one’s who evaluate our companies with their patronage).  I would venture that the positive momentum of potential in an all-too-many organizations is often critically reduced by the need for the majority of employees to serve “up the chain” in their jobs.  Energy directed up an organizational chart is most certainly lost on already understrength lateral connections with customers.

The reality of work is that our first priority is to keep our jobs, and the income they provide. The customers often get left in the dust, whether they be purchasers of goods or subordinates of a manager. With everyone supporting Adam Smith’s theories, we’re left to wonder who will look up and see the long-term need to sustain the greater organization.

“Determining who the ‘real’ relationship should be with” is more about keeping a conversation going on what’s most important to the organization, than it is about strategizing office politics (a.k.a. covering your rear end).  That said, if you have formal authority, be aware of your current management practices and their potential to subdue the relationships that pay the bills of the place that pays your bills. That will take some practice. Pay attention to what you do and how you do it and how it impacts the entire organizational system.

3. Do unto them what THEY want you to do unto them. This is the third spot where the Golden Rule can mess us up. We’ve all heard, read and probably even said that our customers don’t care about our business, just what we can do for them.  Well, if that’s true, then why are companies executing on sales programs designed to make themselves feel better rather than doing what their customers (and all of us, really) want: building strong relationships of respect by listening to understand (This is exactly what is at the heart of Alan Belniak’s recent post, when he mentions ’empathy’ as a tool to stand out from the competition).

Oh yeah, I know it sounds touchy-feely, but marketers must realize that our current financial crunch is reforming old spending habits, and now-tight budgets will evolve into prudent financial discipline.  The wild west of check-writing is gone. People actually want to know that where they are spending their time and money will pay off. Can you believe it?!

Be interested in your customers – the game is changing.  The future value-center of the organization will not be the catalog lists of merchandise or services, but the relationship-building practices it institutionalizes as part of its culture.  In a networked world, our expanding circle of connections and rekindled ‘friending’ will actually narrow our range of most-trusted relationships, through which we will source the majority of our needs.

What this means to you: You need to keep a job both now and in the future. That means effectively managing the needs of your customers and your organization’s customers. If your boss really wants you to deliver something that might not add value to, or resonate with the ultimate end-user, then find a way to have the conversation about which customers are the top priority and find a process to help you focus on them (and think about the outcomes of that conversation on your long-term work prospects).

What this means to your organization: Most of us are working somewhere where process is more historical than rational.  Sustainable organizations will examine and challenge their own processes and focus continually. Look for opportunities to go lean. Think ‘direct communication’. Set-up systems that prevent ‘boss-worship’ and reward the living of company values.  And, realize that constituents of leaders in organizations ARE your number one customers – if they don’t show up for work, the other customer needs will never get met.

If I have to choose, I’ll take no customer service

Not the kind of crowd a business needs on Saturday night.

Not the kind of crowd a business needs on Saturday night.

This is Hollywood video in my neck of the woods, on a Saturday night, about 6 pm. This is the time that the place should be full of people, grabbing their evening’s entertainment.  I don’t know if the picture shows just how large and empty the parking lot is, but there is nobody there.  No, it’s not closed.  It’s just not wanted any more. It’s paying the price of a rapidly outdated business model and ineffective customer relationships (do you see the link between the two?). Most businesses probably won’t realize that the latter feeds their ills, but in reality, it does.

Lets play a little “If you give a mouse a muffin”, an exercise in systemic thinking.

If your business model is stagnating, it’s probably because you are not keeping up with and thinking ahead of stakeholder needs. If you’re not keeping up with stakeholder needs, it’s probably because you are not communicating well with them. If you are not communicating well with them, you probably have ineffective customer relationships. And, of course, if you have that, then you have a declining business model. And the cycle continues.

I’m sure that 10 out of 10 marriage counselors will tell you that communication is the underlying cause for relationship failures.  Communication is not merely message-sending.  We’ve all met too many managers that think that just because they ‘told’ you, you should know.  Look how many businesses do the same with their customers.  There are strict guidelines, policies and corporate departments that drive and enforce branding. But behind the look and feel is the experience that really makes the brand.  And customer service is the front-line infantry in the war for acquisition, retention and loyalty.

So, we took this picture on our way to the redbox at the grocery store.  My wife looked at the Hollywood Video and commented that we could probably get a video there for free, and I replied that there was no way that I was going to go there (You see, we had a bit of a customer service experience there in the past and I decided then and there that I would never give them another dollar).  In complete agreement, she said,

“If I have to choose between no customer service and lousy customer service, I’ll take no customer service.”

And I echoed the thought.  I mean really, with no customer service from a machine, at least my expectations are met.  I’d rather meet my expectations than be let down.