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

Fighting Lions Without Fighting At All

I’m always looking for those intrepid souls who will come along and pull the organization out of it’s funk. Those who, despite the odds, the nay-sayers, the BS and the crummy culture, have a sense of mission and destination and are going to “go there” no matter what.

And they are there – somewhere in your organization. I’m not yet sure how to find them, except I think I could hunt them down by following the tracks of the innovative, looking for the signs of the exemplary and by scouting for the pattern of the consistently extraordinary. Continue reading

The Secret to Making a ‘Magic’ Organization

Two Keys to Exceptional Performance

Some organizations simply seem to prosper without trying. They have the Midas touch. They just seem, well… Magic. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small business that has captured the market in your town, or a large multinational whose presence has swelled across the globe.

The roots of exceptional, sustainable success are usually the same from sports to business to personal achievement. Individuals wanting to build exceptional organizations follow the same principles of being exceptional that anything else does. Continue reading

3 Simple Steps to a Prosperous Business

I read a great post by Steve Woodruff about businesses that get lost in the crowd.  It’s tongue-in-cheek, funny and sadly accurate. Here is my response:

Steve, great points. I think you nailed it. But you and I both know that for the myriads of businesses that fall underneath this sad banner that you have so simply illustrated, it’s not that simple.  Why?

Why is it that even though we know we should practice “opposite day” to everything you’ve mentioned, we still fall short?  What’s missing?  What’s the secret sauce?  What do I need to know?  Tell me! Ahhhhh! (read screaming, fingers in hair and running away while wiggling the elbows).

Too many businesses set “money” as their number one goal, and since there are so many ways to make money, it’s not enough to provide clear direction for management, decision-making and especially branding.  They need to rethink the core of the organization.  For the majority of small businesses in the United States, that means the core character or identity of the individual business owner.  For large firms, it’s the “Holy We” management team that serves as the core group of the organization.

Organizations that have lost sight of “who they are” cannot articulate their unique contribution to the world, let alone the target market.  Branding becomes a logo, sales fall into the price/promotion cycle, any business is good business and before they know it, they are commoditized and done.  In standing for everything, they have stood for nothing and become what they stood for.

The fact is: Many organizations fail. Most businesses that start in the U.S. fail. Many other types of organizations eventually fall out of favor with their members and are thus disbanded.  How do we find and keep our identity while prospering as a business or other organization?  Here are three thoughts:

1. Don’t let your product or service become your purpose. All great organizations have a purpose (and making money isn’t it).  Since a brand is a reflection of who you are and the relationships you have with stakeholders, GET CLEAR ON WHO YOU ARE and then figure out the products and services necessary to sustain it.  Don’t let the products define the organization.

2. Make everyone a brand manager.  That “who you are” determines the direction of your organization’s brand. Hiring people who “don’t get what you’re about” only sets you up to have your products, and your brand, prostituted at the moment someone starts looking out for numero uno (themselves). Help people feel responsible for the brand and they will defend it from desperate decisions.

3. Don’t sell anything.  A “Man (person) convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.  Chasing the ambulance and pushing product will get some sales, but it’s not going to build long-term, sustainable revenue generation.  In the information-rich and advocacy-intensive social networks that permeate today’s purchasing processes, the best thing you can do is build strong relationships. 

Do these three things and the relationships you build will reflect the brand you want and the products will sell themselves.

The Essence of Brand

I used this video in a recent keynote address.  I think it may be a failsafe: It is such a moving piece that all you need to do is tack it on to the end of any talk, and you’re an instant success.

But in this case, I had a legitimate reason to use it.  I have been communicating the need for an intentional effort to consider brand in the restructuring of an internal organization; to consider whether or not behaviors, words, appearance and presentation are conveying the things we’d like to have conveyed. And of course this is nothing more than a reverse approach into the ultimate question at the core of any organization: Who are we and why do we exist?

But in the midst of organizational existentialism is still the social structure whose brand is defined in the nature of relationships it maintains with its stakeholders – specifically the customers (which can be loosely defined).

So the sustainable organization is one whose relationships give the ‘other’ party what they are looking for, and also what they need.  They connect on an emotional level and generate mutual benefit.

So, even though I am sure that you have seen this before, watch this video from this point of view: The audience are customers, the judges are outspoken and often deeply critical and demanding customers, and the individual on stage is the company putting forth its product into the market.

In this case, there is a resonant connection, even felt nearly 5 years later.  Learn a little about branding and business and connection from this humble, mobile phone salesman.