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How to lose a customer

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A very quick blog entry today, but I felt I had to write about a wonderfully poor customer service experience with T-Mobile...

My office is in rather a rural location, and so I’m shopping around a bit to find out who offers the best mobile phone signal. The leading contenders are T-Mobile (my current provider) and O2. I know that T-Mobile works very weakly here, and (having borrowed a friend’s phone) that O2 is marginally better. So I called T-Mobile to find out about ending my contract and getting my PAC code. Here is what they got wrong:

1) They missed the most obvious question - “why are you thinking of leaving us”. Orange asked this when I left them (signal strength related - their customer service was generally better than most other large phone companies), but T-Mobile didn’t seem interested.

2) My contract ends on 21st Feb. I can call them to cancel it on the 21st Jan. That’s it. Just on that day. If I try and cancel earlier, it “doesn’t work”, and, if I call the day afterwards, I have to pay more because the contract is assumed to continue. What if I’m busy?!

3) The representative I spoke to was a “talker”, not a listener. Very rapid, long-winded sentences emerged from her that bore little relation to the questions being asked.

4) I asked to speak to a supervisor...he, apparently, would tell me exactly the same thing, but no, I couldn’t speak to him now, but he would call me back later today (I’ll update this post if/when it actually happens).


I got a call from (presumably) a different part of the T-Mobile organisation a couple of weeks ago, asking if I wanted to extend my contract with them and sign up for another 24 months. That representative seemed surprised that I didn’t want to give an answer immediately (making a decision to commit to spending over £1,000 instantly from a cold call has never been my style!). I think I have an answer for him now...


Update - Wednesday 9th December

Well, disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, the follow-up call didn't happen. Again, in terms of the absolute result, it might not have changed anything, but it could have had a positive effect on my impression of T-Mobile...and that opportunity was missed. They did, however, get in touch via text, and this is how it went:

"Hello, thanks for calling T-Mobile. We'd like to ask you for some feedback about your customer service experience."
"Q1 of 3: Overall how satisfied were you with your call experience?" Rating from 5 (extremely) to 1 (not at all) - I went for a 1.
"Sorry you were not satistfied. Q2 of 3: Did the T-Mobile agent you spoke with resolve your query on this occasion?" Yes or no - I went for a "No".
"Sorry to hear that. Q3 of 3: How satisfied were you with the friendliness of the agent?" Rating from 5 (extremely) to 1 (not at all) - I went for a 1.

There was another text, asking me to give them additional feedback - I've directed them here, so it'll be interesting to see whether anything comes of it!


The crucial aspect here is how different this experience - an anonymous, automated, disinterested approach - is to a personal, 1-on-1, interested approach. I visited a local print shop recently, to enquire about getting some new business cards printed, and had a wonderful customer service experience...if one man in a messy back-street shop can do it, why can't a huge organisation such as T-Mobile?

Update - Friday 29th January

Well, as close as I possibly could to the "deadline" of the 21st January, I called to cancel my contract. I was asked, this time, why I was leaving. I mentioned the poor reception at home. I was then told I would have to pay a charge for exiting the contract.

I then explained the details of the last call I'd had, and was told I was wrong - that wasn't how it worked at all. I persuaded the representative to check the notes from the prior call, after which he agreed that it was what I'd been told, but that it was actually wrong. He then explained that the "charge" was in fact a simple up-front payment of the final month's line rental, rather than a penalty. I've cancelled my contract, having explained that poor customer service is another reason for leaving T-Mobile.


T-Mobile have made a lot of very basic mistakes here. A non-exhaustive list is below, and I'm going to pick up on each in later articles

Customer service is so critical to the long term success of a business, it should be the single greatest focus of any organisation - but for too many organisations it is simply a cheaply run cost centre.

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