It was 2011 and T-Mobile was reeling from a failed merger with AT&T and a $4.3 billion loss in sales. They didn’t have the iPhone and were the only national carrier that didn’t have 4G or LTE. The outlook wasn’t good. But this story isn’t about how T-Mobile turned their business around and changed the category for good (which they did), it’s about how a clear singular purpose internally unleashed 50,000+ employees and became the driving force behind T-Mobile’s Un-carrier movement.
Fast forward 10 years, after a new CEO, a merger with Sprint, a pandemic and political and social unrest, the Un-carrier movement continues to empower tens of thousands of frontline employees working on a day-to-day basis, making decisions and judgments with with a clear and simple purpose at heart: 100% customer commitment.
Giving employees the tools and empowering them to deliver exceptional customer service doesn’t happen with a simple mandate from corporate. Callie Field, T-Mobile’s Executive Vice President & Chief Customer Experience Officer, explained “It came from sitting and listening to our frontline saying ‘we don’t have the tools and permissions to be able to resolve the issues that we want to resolve.'”
This idea of activating brand purpose is near and dear to me because it’s what we specialize in at StrawberryFrog, and Field’s work is exemplary. We pioneered an approach called ‘Movement Thinking’ that’s proven to help companies activate purpose to the people who matter inside the organization and out. Likewise, Field and her group created T-Mobile’s “Team of Experts” – a philosophy born from the purpose of solving their customers’ pain points at any cost. It is revolutionary as it reframed customer service from a necessary evil or the cost of doing business, to an opportunity to deepen relationships and to create happier customers.
Using purpose to revolutionize customer experience
Activating purpose within customer experience changed performance and results. T-Mobile saw a 50% decrease in its attrition rate. The company went from 42%, which in customer service is pretty standard in the U.S., to under 21%.
This necessitated a different set of criteria than what is typically found in customer service and call centers. Field explains, “With a Team of Experts, we ask ourselves four things: are the customers happier; are they staying longer; are we deepening our relationships; and are we helping them do whatever they want to do with way less effort? And so anything that we build, any experience that we create has to meet those four requirements.”
“I believe in being very transparent with your workforce about what you’re trying to achieve, where it’s working, where it’s not, and really enlisting them in the work to be done — that their voice matters. It’s really important for leaders to stay really connected and listen to the people that pick up the phones in the call centers, the people that are meeting your customers in the store. We have town halls that are totally open, there are no rehearsed questions. And you know what? Sometimes they really let me have it. It can be a rough meeting. And that’s fine, because I learn from them.”
Field concludes, “Over the last six or seven years at T-Mobile, to have given our teams the freedom, and in fact the mandate, to love our customers and to love each other and to hold ourselves accountable for that. I mean, it’s one thing to tell a colleague or a customer, ‘I like you and I appreciate you.’ It’s a different thing to say ‘we love you’ because the accountability is immense. And on the other hand, the potential for joy, meaning and deeper relationship with customers and each other is all very real. I think about it a lot.”
Here are 5 learnings to revolutionize customer experience with your employees at the center:
1. Your customer experience will always reflect your company culture.
- Businesses that thrive place customers and employees front and center.
- Great customer experiences are delivered by care experts who love what they do.
- Aim to live and breathe your company’s values, leadership and communication style.
- In addition to providing world-class products/solutions, consider the impact that your organization is making on society, the environment and as a force for good.
2. Empower your team to create customer happiness.
- There’s no script or rule book for the perfect customer experience because every company and customer is different
- Provide your employees with the tools and information they need to understand customers’ needs and deepen that relationship.
- Make it easy for customers to connect with you — or, if they choose, to fix the problem on their own via intuitive digital tools.
3. When you put the employee and customer first, customer care can drive profitability.
- Empower your experts to operate as business owners, making decisions that solve customer problems and benefit the bottom line.
- Bake profit and loss accountability into your incentive model.
4. As customer expectations change, your brand must, too.
- In an increasingly digital world, think about how your brand shows up at every customer touch point.
- Be the brand that invests in incredible technology and responsibly uses data to help people navigate the customer journey in much easier, faster and more satisfying ways.
5. Deliver exceptional experiences.
- Treating customer care as a cost center is a race to the bottom. Instead, invest in memorable experiences that differentiate your brand and drive return on investment.
- Leverage data to communicate a customer’s history and their needs in real time so they never have to repeat themselves.
- Build cross-functional teams (i.e., customer care, digital, IT, marketing) to deliver a uniformly excellent experience wherever and whenever customers connect with you.