Iâ€™ve been a t-mobile customer for a year now. How do I know that? I know that because a week before my contract expired I was inundated with unsolicited calls from 3rd parties offering to upgrade my phone if I renewed with them. This niggled me. Iâ€™m sure I hadnâ€™t consented for t-mobile to pass my details on â€“ and I also couldnâ€™t work out why they would want to as this would only serve to cost them commission on my account?!
Luckily for t-mobile though (I would have thought) I was in no rush. Well not exactly true. With the recent high profile phone releases (i-phone, Blackberry storm & the G1 (google phone)) I was of course in a rush as much as anyone that gets excited by new things (in a real â€œboy with a new toyâ€ type way) to see what phone I might upgrade to. Iâ€™ve had a mobile phone for a good while and you kinda get used to getting a shiny new toy to play with in exchange for your continued loyalty at no cost (well â€“ we all know itâ€™s hidden in the contract, but you know what I mean). So you can imagine how that was magnified when I realised that my renewal date coincided with the day the G1 came out only on the t-mobile network. GET IN! This was surely fate solving any decision I might have had to make about whether to go sexy, business chic or web guy functionally cool.
Interestingly â€“ whilst everyone and his brother (particularly if they worked in a South Wales call centre it would seem) was in a hurry to sign me back up in the days leading up to my contract expiring t-mobile didnâ€™t want to speak to me until the day it had expired. Itâ€™s OK I thought. Iâ€™ll wait. Iâ€™m a loyal kind of customer.
Unfortunately that was the start of the customer service paradox and the wait was all in vain. My hope shattered. My nose was to be left pressed up against the virtual shop window. You see it would seem that about 6weeks ago t-mobile changed the upgrade game for their customers, although youâ€™ll not find it explained in any of their literature or on their website. No longer do they automatically offer reasonable upgrades after your contract expires â€“ oh no. Itâ€™s all spend dependent. And I donâ€™t mean that I was told I just had to pay a little something extra to get the phone that would keep me being a loyal customer â€“ nope â€“ this was a point blank â€œâ€™dems the rules as of now, so itâ€™s pretty much pay the price of the phone or make doâ€.
Iâ€™ll be fair â€“ for customers not entitled to an upgrade they offer Â£5pm off your bill. And Iâ€™m sure for any logical decision process thatâ€™s probably not a bad deal â€“ Iâ€™m well aware that the price of the new generation of phones to the phone companies is certainly creeping up and they have to make some tough business decisions â€“ but when has getting your hands on new toys been a logical decision process. Logic doesnâ€™t see people queuing for days before to get their hand on the new i-phone. Logic doesnâ€™t then see the same people wait patiently days later whilst O2 get their systems in order to activate the thing. Logic doesnâ€™t see people paying for two phones on different networks just so they can have the latest thing in their pocket.
I canâ€™t work out whether itâ€™s a bold or stupid move by t-mobile â€“ as with many such changes only time will truly tell. But whilst there are other providers in the same space at about the same price with similar coverage as t-mobile and who would love to steal my custom and will give me a new toy right now (with a 1month lag and cost to port my number) then perhaps t-mobile have misjudged this one. I donâ€™t feel any unbreakable brand affinity with the people in pink. But perhaps theyâ€™re target audience are people who canâ€™t be faffed moving to another provider (although looking at their advertising and target demographic shown in that I think not).
This is what I canâ€™t get â€“ surely every business knows that itâ€™s cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire new. If I walked off the street and wanted a new number and contract theyâ€™d give me exactly the phone I want (tariff dependent). But theyâ€™re gambling, and I think it is a gamble, that the majority of their existing customers who are good regular (but maybe not the highest) spenders with them wonâ€™t feel cheated when theyâ€™re denied that annual little technological lift that people on contracts generally have come to expect.
So if youâ€™re reading this and are responsible for managing relationships, be they customers, employees or candidates, then my advice is to be sure before you change anything that you put yourself in the shoes of those who have come to accept things being done a certain way. Cutting back on providing a company water cooler may on paper look like an easy way to save a couple of hundred pounds â€“ weâ€™re lucky to live in a country where we can all drink the perfectly decent water from the taps after all â€“ but what if thatâ€™s the last straw for a half decent person whoâ€™s feeling the â€œplace just isnâ€™t the same as the one I came to work forâ€. How much would they cost to replace? What if youâ€™re working at an agency feeling the pinch and decide that the annual Christmas client lunch is an easy thing to cut back on, certainly for anyone other than the top billers? Iâ€™d suggest you ask yourself how much youâ€™d spend re-pitching or pitching to replace that business if thatâ€™s the final nail in the coffin for your relationship â€“ they never saw you and always felt unloved speaking to a different Account Exec each time they called anyway.
Loyalty can be a fickle thing â€“ but thought and good communication can generally re-enforce the bond even when some prickly decisions are having to be made. Had t-mobile been clear and honest about what their new policy is and why then maybe I might be more tolerant â€“ rather than still reading:
You and your mobile have been joined at the hip for ages now, but let’s face it, ever since the paint rubbed off the 0 key you just don’t feel the same way. Well, here’s some good news: if you’ve been with us for a while, you may well be eligible for a free upgrade or a brand new mobile at a reduced priceâ€¦ If you’re still thrilled with your mobile, you can choose other savings instead.
Iâ€™m not thrilled with my mobile and Iâ€™ll get a new shiny one without spending Â£400+ thank you very much, because it’s the price that you and your competitors are willing to pay to get me to switch, but clearly not something you are willing to stretch to to retain me. I hope your clients or employees donâ€™t feel they want to try a shiny new interface just because they feel shortchanged.