TMobile Customers Beware – You’re Being Ripped Off

The Story:

T-Mobile has undergone some hard times in recent years, and their solution is causing a bad situation that can cost you quite a bit of money.  T-Mobile’s customer service used to be #1.  Every year, year after year, they’d land first place in J.D. Powers award for best wireless customer service.  Back in those days, T-Mobile’s official policy was to not nickle and dime the customer, and make every attempt to “right fit” the customer.  By right fitting, I mean recommending rate plans and features that fit the customers needs, and by not nickle and dime-ing I mean things like no restoration fees, and waiving other fees in various circumstances.  Things have changed now, and if your account is suspended, you’re facing a $20 per line restoration fee, which, for a 5 line account is $100!  On top of that, fees that once could be waived in certain circumstances are no longer able to be waived by the representative.  For example, say you’re making a payment over the phone with the automated system, and it was giving you trouble, a representative could waive the $5 payment fee, but now, can now longer do so.  All a representative can do is charge the fee or direct the customer back to the automated system or a store kiosk, or whatever, anything but waiving a fee.

The Problem

This puts representatives in a difficult position.  Representatives have been instructed to no longer “right fit” customers.  So if you call up and ask “how can I lower my bill?”,  you’re going to get the run around, or be told to register online and examine your account and make changes yourself, or recommended a rate plan that’s more expensive rather than best fit to your needs.  For example, if you’re a single line account, and you average 200-400 minutes a month, a 500 minute rate plan is perfectly fine because along with 500 whenever minutes, you get unlimited nights, weekends, and T-Mo to T-Mo calls.  Instead, a rep will recommend an unlimited rate plan regardless of your needs.

Sales – The Rip Off

This is where you’re being ripped off.  T-Mobile has moved to a “service to sales” format of customer service.  Before sales, the big push was customer service.   The rep was trained and coached and expected to do right by the customer, right fit them, and resolve their problem.  This was replaced by “Resolve, Sell, Grow”, which means, fix the customers problem, then hit them with a soft sales pitch disguised as rapport building chatter between rep and customer.  T-Mobile retrained the entire customer service staff over a period of several months beginning in late spring of 2011.  They sent special trainers throughout the company to train the reps on how to go about offering various upgrades and features to the customer.  Now, as a business person myself, I understand the logic behind sales up-selling.  A good increase in profits can be made by adding features to customer accounts, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  However, that’s not what’s happening.  For starters, T-Mobile has now changed the entire new hire training from teaching reps how to resolve problems, to one big long 6 week sales training class, so when new reps hit the floor, they’re ill prepared to resolve even some of the most basic problems.  On top of that, there is a bonus program designed to encourage the reps to sell harder.  That however is just a carrot on the end of a stick situation where it’s difficult to meet the goals in order to receive the bonus.

The Rip Off

Since you’re in a situation where there’s really no bonus to be had, it doesn’t take long for the reps to realize this, and so this discourages reps from making sales offers.  Therefore, they made making sales offers mandatory, and if you’re caught not selling, you could loose your job.   Bear in mind, reps hired before selling was part of the job already despise being thrust into a sales position to being with.  On top of that, removal of a feature counts against your sales tally.  So now you’re in a position where you have reps who have no desire to be salesman put into a position where they are required to make sales to keep their jobs, and sell even more to make up for the removal of features.  Previously, if a representative received a call, you were required to resolve the customer’s issue.  If a customer calls and asks you to remove a feature, it was you job to remove the feature.  Now, doing your job can cause you to loose your job.  This creates the atmosphere that causes you to be ripped off.  

You’re now in a position where representatives are forced to not right fit customers, and, argue against a removal, and pitch a sale.  Their only reward is being told they didn’t get bonus this month because they missed this metric or that metric by this much.  The old “carrot on a stick” routine common in many sales environments.  All they get is to get to keep their job.  So what it boils down to is you must not “right fit” the customer, but rather convince them not to lower their bill by resisting removals, and encourage them to raise it by pushing features.  This creates an environment where representatives feel as though they must perform or loose their job.  This has created the most horrendous situation representatives in fear of loosing their jobs will flat out lie to customers, telling them they removed a feature when they didn’t, and to boot, may have even added one or more features that you didn’t even request.  It’s so bad that customers will call month after month trying to get features removed from their account, and wind up not getting them removed and even worse, getting more that were never requested.

The Customer

In the end, the poor customer is left bewildered as to why they cannot get customer service, and continuously be surprised every month as their bill goes up through the roof.  Reps have resorted to lying and cheating the customer simply too keep their job.  This is the rip off.  Reps have complained because this atmosphere is impossible to exist in.  Customers are lied to, transferred to other departments unnecessarily, refused basic customer services, misdirected, mistreated, and flat out ripped off.  Management has said they’re doing what they can to stop this, but it doesn’t stop, it goes on, day after day, after week, after month, after year now for well over a year.  They will fire a rep if busted doing these things, but with the call volume, it’s far more likely that a representative will get away with it rather than be busted doing it.

T-Mobile can easily fix the issue by not threatening representatives with their jobs if they don’t meet sales goals.

They don’t seem to care though, because they are cleaning up.  Profits are way up despite the company bleeding customers like a sieve for a very long time now.  They’re also closing down North American sites and outsourcing the jobs overseas to countries where the representatives barely speak English, and essentially read from scripts from which they refuse to deviate from.  The same sales tactics  are in forced there as well, so you have everything mentioned above combined with someone who barely, if at all, understands what you’re asking for.

How to Survive.

So what’s a T-Mobile customer to do?  Well, for one, you can head off to one of the other 3 carriers, but that might not be an option because you’re likely locked into contract, and, not necessarily because of a phone discount.  Pretty much anything you do at T-Mobile requires a 2 year contract.  Changing a rate plan, accepting a credit on your account for something T-Mobile screwed up, and other things require you to extend your contract besides receiving a discount on a phone purchase.  Many customers have no clue they’re under contract.  T-Mobile does this so when you get so pissed off that you’re ready to dump them, you’ll think twice because your 5 lines that had 2 year contract extensions a few months ago when you changed your rate plan now mean $200 x 5, or $1000 in early termination fees.  So, if your stuck under contract (that’s most of you by the way), the best thing you can do is avoid calling customer service.  Your account is open in front of a representative because you called… Representatives cannot open accounts willy, nilly, you can be fired for that.  Your account is open in front of a rep for them to not remove what you want and add whatever they want only because you called and the system displays your account to the representative.  You’re far better off using the website to resolve nearly every issue that you might have.  If it’s unavoidable, and you must call customer care.  Log online and examine your account to confirm the changes you requested are reflected in the website.  Some changes might take a day or two to appear on the website, others quickly.  Also, some account changes trigger an automatic text message to the primary account holder’s handset.  Pay attention to those messages.  If you called to ask for your balance only (which you should never do, simply dial #BAL# or #225# to get that info), and you get a message stating your data plan has changed, then they likely added or upgraded your data plan when you didn’t request it.

Then, when you’re contract’s up, move to a carrier that carries the iPhone and enjoy life.

By John