Late last year I upgraded my iPhone 5c to an iPhone 6 Plus as part of T-Mobile’s JUMP program. More than three months and a dozen customer support calls later I was still being charged for my old phone—in addition to my new phone—as if the JUMP upgrade was never processed. While I did finally achieve a resolution to this issue, I went through customer service hell to get there. Along the way I learned some interesting facts about how T-Mobile’s customer service department is organized—and what it takes to get a resolution there (scroll to the bottom for my tips). Before you contact T-Mobile’s customer service, you’re going to want to read this.
A couple of weeks ago, I began this blog post by venting the following…
T-Mobile has no record of receiving my old phone in the mail (although I have a confirmation that it was delivered). Why? T-Mobile doesn’t know. Literally nobody within T-Mobile can tell me.
That’s according to Dan. Dan is an hourly customer service supervisor. He supervises customer service representatives. He’s the type of person you get transferred to (or “escalated to” in customer service speak) when you ask to speak with a supervisor. But he’s not THE supervisor. There are many supervisors.
According to Dan, T-Mobile’s customer service department consists of eight teams. Each team includes an hourly supervisor (like Dan) as well as a salaried supervisor. Above the hourly and salaried supervisors is the call center management. Above the call center management is the site director.
With such a long chain of command, one would be tempted to rest assured that someone in the customer service department would be able to resolve a simple issue like getting overcharged for a phone that a customer sent back. Not so.
Dan told me that there was actually no way for him—or anyone in the company—to discover why I was being charged for a phone I sent back. He guessed that either an improper request had been made by customer service to the warehouse staff (T-Mobile actually has six warehouses, according to Dan, and there was no way for him to know which warehouse my phone was sitting in) or someone had entered the wrong tracking number into their system.
I asked Dan if that was what had in fact happened. He said those were just possible scenarios. I asked why the warehouse or customer service department hand’t been able to detect an issue in this case and let me know. All Dan could tell me was that he was handling the situation the best he could.
After I had typed out the above, I connected with Dan’s supervisor and am able to add the following to this post:
But Dan was wrong. There was someone in the company who could figure out what happened to my old phone. Who could right all the wrongs I had experienced. That was Dan’s supervisor Tye.
Tye actually proactively called me back (and kept calling until he got ahold of me). Which was refreshing and unexpected given the ordeal I had gone through. When Tye called I was ready with an Evernote file loaded with the following stats and questions:
Facts for Tye:
- I’ve waited over 3 months to resolve this issue.
- I’ve had at least 7 customer service calls (including this one).
- I’ve chatted with support multiple times.
- I visited a T-Mobile store.
- And I’ve had to ask for charges to be removed 3 times individually.
Questions for Tye:
- Would you say this is my fault or T-Mobiles?
- Would you say this has inconvenienced me?
- Can you offer me an inconvenience credit? (BUT YOU JUST SAID…)
- Why am I still dealing with this after 3 months? In other words, why didn’t T-Mobile detect an issue and deal with it automatically instead of continuing to overcharge me?
- Are you, or any of the other supervisors, call center management team or the site director advocating for a better system that would serve customers better by automatically detecting these types of issues to allow for a proactive resolution rather than forcing the customer to make 7 frustrating customer service calls?
- Can I hold you personally responsible if this isn’t taken care of this time?
- Can I talk to your supervisor—someone from the management team? (WHY NOT? WHAT IS THEIR JOB IF NOT TO SERVE CUSTOMERS THEN?)
- Will T-Mobile pay to switch me to another carrier?
- Then what can you do for me right now, tonight? (WHAT IF THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH)?
Fortunately (and unfortunately, for the journalist side of me) I never got a chance to say any of this to Tye because he was so on the ball. Tye was beyond awesome. Beyond. But getting to Tye was beyond terrible. Way, way, way beyond.
You know how customer service calls always start by telling you the call will be recorded for training purposes? Well this time it was me that was doing the recording to ensure I got my facts straight for this story. Here’s what I learned from talking to Tye.
At multiple points throughout the conversation, Tye admitted that T-Mobile had “created a very horrible experience.” I appreciated that and he also apologized sincerely and profusely. He said he couldn’t count the “endless amount of errors” T-Mobile created in what should have been “a very simple process” and noted that “no customer should have to contact T-Mobile over a dozen times” due to a mistake made by the carrier.
Tye said he was able to find where the error began “and then just watch one after another” as “people were going down the wrong path.” Tye mentioned that the representatives I had spoken with previously were treating the situation like I was sending the phone back for buyers remorse—rather than a JUMP upgrade/return. In his own words, Tye said, “I don’t know that anybody ever went back to the October notes and I believe that’s what really caused the confusion on our end. It was just incorrect information.”
Essentially, Tye told me that, from the get-go, the return process had been fumbled. I never should have been told a return label would be sent. I never should have been sent to a local T-Mobile store. I was given the wrong return address—so that my phone would never have been found/verified as returned by the T-Mobile employees I was speaking to. Unless I had asked to speak with a salaried supervisor I never would have gotten things fixed.
That’s because only salaried T-Mobile customer service supervisor’s are aware of the work-around (and similar work-arounds, apparently) that Tye and his manager were able to pull off. So when Dan told me that there wasn’t an employee that could possibly handle this situation for me—that was apparently true from his perspective because T-Mobile’s higher-up’s intentionally keep lower-level employees (yes, even the first level of supervisors your call get’s escalated to) in the dark about such workarounds. The reason, according to Tye, being fraud prevention.
Over and over again, Tye mentioned how much effort I, as the customer, had put into trying to solve this situation. Apparently, it takes herculean effort on the part of a customer to find a resolution to a simple problem like this at T-Mobile. Otherwise, it seems, the salaried folks within T-Mobile’s customer service team might not care enough to help. Or was it the fact that I mentioned I was a tech reporter that finally got me the needed traction… I guess I’ll never know. I wonder whether or not a “normal” T-Mobile customer can really get a fair deal from the customer service department…
So how did this end up getting resolved? Type finally took care of the old phone’s charges for me and have me a month’s worth of free service for my time. In fact, I ended up with a small credit balance on my account.
I can honestly say that Tye was incredibly friendly and helpful and I sincerely appreciate his efforts and attention. He did everything he said he would do except call me back to follow up on February 9th (yesterday). That said, all the good stuff Tye did doesn’t offset the horrible months-long path I had to take in order to find a resolution.
I left Tye with the thought that every T-Mobile customer service representative I spoke with was really friendly. They just weren’t helpful, until I got ahold of Tye. I told him, “friendly is one thing, but helpful is what I’m after,” and, “I’d rather have a mean person that got what I needed taken care of.”
Tye responded by saying that “being nice is easier to teach than overall knowledge. We have a vast range of information we need to be product experts in,” he said. “Apology experts, tool experts—just tons. We get that feedback not just from you and we hear that. We’ve got to get smarter.”
Yes, T-Mobile, you do need to get smarter. T-Mobile does have worse coverage in many areas of the country than other carriers. But it’s cheaper—that’s why I put up with it. But this customer service experience was beyond terrible. If I knew that Verizon or Sprint or AT&T had better customer service I’d absolutely consider paying a bit more for service—truly. That would be a real feature and differentiator. Sadly, I doubt any of the other carriers have truly excellent customer service…
T-Mobile customer service lessons I learned the hard way:
- As much as you don’t have time to, you must be relentless in your pursuit of a solution. In this case I called and chatted with T-Mobile around 12 times concerning this issue.
- To get something fixed you need to talk to a salaried supervisor—they literally know more and are empowered to do more than non-salaried employees (in T-Mobile’s case, this would mean asking to talk to a supervisor’s supervisor).
- If all else fails, let T-Mobile know that you will be writing up a blog post about your experience and sending it to a news outlet. I have a hunch that being a tech writer may have gotten me a better level of treatment than an average customer (unfortunately, although I’m positive that T-Mobile would dispute this notion). But anyone with a blog or social media account can do a lot to hold large companies like T-Mobile accountable. Trust me, they don’t want people saying bad things about them in public (as I mentioned on this episode of HuffPost Live which covers using social media to complain properly).
Featured image via Flickr user Mike Mozart.