T-Mobile has long positioned itself as an outsider and disruptor in the wireless industry. The “Un-carrier” moniker adopted by T-Mobile in 2013 was a nod to its non-traditional approach, which prioritized customer service in an industry that too often seemed to treat customers as antagonists. T-Mobile’s customer-focused innovation efforts have helped set the company apart from its competitors—and have earned it a spot on Fast Company‘s list of the Best Workplaces for Innovators.
Callie Field, executive vice president of customer care at T-Mobile, explains the evolution of Team of Experts, the company’s signature customer service program that launched nationwide in 2018. The goal: to give customers a more personalized—and human— call-center experience.
What’s the idea behind Team of Experts?
We wanted to put customers at the center of the experience. As a customer, do you want to call a company’s customer service number on a Saturday? Of course not. Because you get put on hold or have to go through a phone tree, and it takes forever to get to an actual person. And then when you get to a person, they might put you on hold, and you have to repeat the process with someone new. These people aren’t actually empowered to take care of the thing that’s actually broken. So we wanted to figure out how to eliminate these pain points by putting the customer at the center of the experience and giving our care reps the autonomy to make the best decision for the customer.
A lot of companies are building their customer service approach around AI tools like chatbots. Why isn’t T-Mobile doing that?
Bots reign supreme when the key problem to be solved is lowering costs. Most companies look at customer service as a cost function: They use phone trees and robots and scripts and hyper-specialized customer segmenting so that the frontline employees act more like a factory line. Instead of measuring customer service as a cost, we wanted to measure success through these four questions: Are customers happier? Are they staying with T-Mobile for longer? Are we deepening our relationship with the customer? And are we helping them do everything they want to do with less effort?
What’s the verdict? Are customers happier?
We have the highest and best customer experience scores that we’ve ever had year over year. Our churn—how many customers leave T-Mobile—is down 32% since we launched Team of Experts. And happier customers don’t call as much: Our calls per account are down 35%, and our overall cost to serve customers is down 25% since starting Team of Experts.
Are there benefits beyond happy customers?
We’ve seen the Team of Experts model change the experience for our team. Our annual turnover is 21%—less than half the average turnover in the customer service industry. It’s also created opportunities for our team to advance their careers: They’re the ones who are closest to our customers, and who also know the most about what’s broken in our business. That information is invaluable to the rest of the company. We knew that by connecting what they’re learning and giving them meaningful training so they can go work in marketing, or finance, or product and technology, we could create actual life-changing career paths. So that’s what we did.