T-Mobile customer care czar: Calls per customer down 31% since 'Uncarrier' launch

T-Mobile’s Callie Field presents at the CCA trade show.

FORT WORTH, Texas—The head of T-Mobile’s customer care operations boasted that the number of calls per customer that T-Mobile receives has decreased 31% since the operator launched its “Uncarrier” branding efforts roughly four years ago. And that, said T-Mobile’s Callie Field, is a critical milestone because “a phone call equals pain.”

“Customers rarely call when they’re happy with their service,” said Field, EVP of T-Mobile’s customer care business. Field made her comments during a keynote presentation here at the CCA trade show.

Field explained that T-Mobile’s approach to customer care spans a number of operations, with the overall goal of more quickly and easily solving customers’ problems. Indeed, perhaps one of the most interesting statistics Field offered during her keynote presentation was that 30% of those T-Mobile customers who upgraded to the new iPhone 8 device did so through the carrier’s self-service smartphone app, a situation she said dramatically reduces the amount of work that T-Mobile’s customer care representatives have to do.

“Carriers inflict pain. The Uncarrier removes pain,” Field said in explaining T-Mobile’s approach to customer care and the wider wireless industry.

As Field noted, T-Mobile’s Uncarrier branding efforts continue to bear fruit for the carrier. In its most recent quarter T-Mobile notched 595,000 net postpaid subscribers—figures that were short of some analyst expectations but still the operator’s 18th straight quarter of more than 1 million net additions. “T-Mobile's 3Q metrics reflected steady execution despite concerns of heightened competition,” wrote the Wall Street analysts at Barclays in a report on T-Mobile’s results.

Of course, hanging over T-Mobile’s earnings report is heightened speculation that the operator is in the final stretches of a merger agreement with Sprint; neither company hosted a conference call with investors in conjunction with the release of their respective earnings, an action that has been widely interpreted as the result of ongoing and serious merger negotiations between the operators. Perhaps not surprisingly, Field during her keynote presentation here at the CCA show did not acknowledge speculation about a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, and she did not take questions from the audience after her presentation.

Nonetheless, Field said that T-Mobile plans to continue focusing on its customer care operations in order improve its brand standing and its operations. “We’re going to double down on the customer experience,” Field said. “We want to be in a category all our own.”

Specifically, Field said that T-Mobile is working to expand its coverage area and, as a part of that effort, is opening a number of new stories in locations including Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming. She also said the carrier operates five flagship retail stores—spaces developed specifically to highlight the operator’s Uncarrier brand and services—and that T-Mobile is planning to open a new such flagship store on the Las Vegas Strip shortly.

Field also said that T-Mobile will continue to focus on its social media efforts. She said the carrier continues to gain more steam in the social media space. (The operator’s T-Mobile Twitter account has almost a million followers, while CEO John Legere counts almost 4.5 million followers.) That’s clearly by design; Field said that T-Mobile employs 250 social media customer service representatives in its so-called T-Force group. She said the operator’s T-Force continues to work to attract positive attention from social media personalities as a way of expanding and improving the operator’s brand awareness and perception.

And, despite the operator’s continued focus on interacting with customers on social media or allowing them to handle their own services via the T-Mobile customer care app, Field said the operator is also working to improve its own call center services.

“You’ll never be transferred,” Field proclaimed, explaining that all of T-Mobile’s call center workers can handle a wide range of customer concerns. This, she said, will allow the operator’s customer service representatives to immediately address customer problems without having to transfer that customer to another department.