How T-Mobile’s Team of Experts Reinvented Customer Support

Callie Field, EVP - Customer Care, T-Mobile

When T-Mobile launched the Un-carrier Revolution in 2013, we set out to remake the entire wireless industry through the lens of our customer-experience obsession. Right away we recognized that legacy practices like service contracts, overage and roaming fees, selective upgrades and limited data were industry standards stacked against the customer. From the customer point of view, the whole system was broken.

One by one, we addressed customer pain points and eliminated them by making what we call T-Mobile’s Un-carrier moves — and in the process we changed wireless for good! Thanks to our revolutionary approach, we’ve become the fastest-growing and most-loved wireless company in the country! It’s hard to be humble when you’re setting records!

By 2015, T-Mobile had made huge strides to move the entire telecom industry forward, but we hadn’t given customer care the Un-carrier treatment. The entire industry had embraced interactive voice response, or IVR, an automated system that led to a runaround of pressing buttons, yelling at bots and feeling super frustrated. (A 2018 survey revealed that 39 percent of customers would rather clean a toilet than deal with an IVR!) Carriers had randomized call routing, so any of their millions of customers might be served by any of their thousands of care agents. Performance was measured one call at a time, and companies were more concerned with shortening call time in the name of saving money than taking their time to solve customer problems.

Around that time, my boss asked me a question about care that came from a classic disrupter point of view: Are we measuring the right thing?

That question prompted serious discussion among our care team. Because the answer was no — we were measuring cost, not customer happiness. So over the next several months — and into the next several years — we went full-on Un-carrier on customer care! We imagined a model that didn’t rely on IVR. We imagined a team that was empowered to help, accountable for their actions and couldn’t hide their promises behind endless transfers or a lack of information. We imagined a great experience for customers and employees alike, all of whom would feel taken care of and respected.

In August 2018, after more than two years of piloting, we publicly launched an entirely new care model. We called it Team of Experts.

Team of Experts is exactly what it sounds like: A small team of care experts, centralized in one location, dedicated to a single, geographically based customer market. Because each Team of Experts owns the P&L for its market, it’s basically its own small business within T-Mobile, staffed with care agents, managers and leaders. Rather than individual transactions, its success depends on team-based metrics that align with T-Mobile’s business goals. Rather than randomized routing, each 40-member Team of Experts is assigned a geographic region and knows its current conditions — weather, network status, special offers — as well as individual details like the specific retail location a customer’s device came from and their service history. Imagine a care team fully aware of emergency situations in your region — a fire, a hurricane, a blizzard — and ensuring your service isn’t interrupted by nonpayment or other extenuating circumstances. Team of Experts puts our customers and employees at the center of our customer care solution.

Rolling out TEX was a massive undertaking. It felt incredibly risky because it required not only a significant up-front financial investment in training, facilities and technology, but also a huge change of our internal culture. It was basically our entire care staff, tens of thousands of people well-versed in the traditional way of doing things, starting over from scratch. But our executive team believes deeply in putting customer experience at the center of our business model, and our faith has paid off in the long-term.

The business case for Team of Experts proved out beyond expectations. We’ve achieved record-setting customer satisfaction at the lowest cost to serve ever in the history of our company. All while saving T-Mobile over a hundred million dollars to date – and potentially more than a billion in the next five years!

Today when you contact customer support at T-Mobile, you can literally see these folks — the very ones from your team — in your T-Mobile app. You can call, schedule a call, text message them, whichever is most convenient. Your call goes straight to your Team, no bouncing, no bots, no BS.

The results speak for themselves. Our Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer likelihood to recommend a brand, has risen 60% since we started implementing TEX nationwide in 2016. In the same time period, we’ve reduced postpaid phone churn by 39%. We cut our credits and bill adjustments by more than half. Calls per postpaid account have dropped 37%. And though handle time has increased by 45% since 2016, overall cost to serve is down 26%.

All those numbers add up to a simple fact: Team of Experts is a huge factor in making T-Mobile customers the happiest in wireless.

Our employees love it, too! Through TEX, we’ve transformed the traditional call center job into a viable career path with opportunities for growth. Since 2014, we’ve cut our employee attrition rate by nearly half. We boast some of the highest employee satisfaction rates within the company, and in 2019 alone, our experience centers earned 24 Best Place to Work awards!

We reinvented ourselves, left the status quo in the dust and ushered customer care into the Un-carrier era. Team of Experts is now one of the primary differentiators between T-Mobile and the rest of the pack — which, by the way, remains broken and stuck. Not even two years since launch, Fortune 500 companies are coming to us for help with their own customer support transformations. This five-part series will offer a glimpse of how we did it.

Stay tuned — we have a lot to share.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

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