T-Mobile Wants to Eradicate ‘Customer Service Hell,’ Create a Better Experience for All

Company is investing in and touting its customer service

Rainn Wilson illustrates customer service hell in a new long-form spot for T-Mobile. T-Mobile
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

T-Mobile is on a mission to improve customer service. The company is revamping the way it cares for customers, enlisting real people to answer customer calls and messages—rather than the typical interactive voice response (IVR) system—to give its customers what it believes will be a simpler, faster response to issues, with the hopes that other companies will also adopt T-Mobile’s approach.

Nick Drake, evp of marketing and experience for T-Mobile, touted the news as “the complete reinvention of customer care. The way it’s being done today is the way it’s been done for about the last 30 years, which is when IVR was invented. Really the only innovation that’s occurred over the last 30 years is the optimization of the IVR but those optimizations are only done from a corporate perspective, ‘How can we save more money for ourselves?’ versus ‘How can we serve our customers better?’ A few years ago we took a step back and said, ‘Is there a better way? Can we serve customers to give them a better experience while also using modern technology to bring that experience to life?’”

With the new customer care approach, which the company is calling “Team of Experts,” T-Mobile believes it has found that solution in removing robot and phone tree systems and replacing it with people. “What we mean by that is that when you call the IVR you no longer get that phone tree, that soft jazz treatment and being bounced around for minutes or sometimes hours on end, depending on the industry you’re calling,” explained Drake.

He continued: “With T-Mobile you now get directly connected with a real live human being that is part of a dedicated team to you, serving you in the area that you live. If you don’t wish to wait through a high-volume call [time] you can schedule a call back. Or, and this is what I’m most excited about, you can directly connect to that team of experts by sending a message. You can do that through the T-Mobile app or website or iMessage and very soon you’ll be able to do it through Facebook Messenger. Now you can directly connect in the way that people already talk to each other.”

To illustrate the appeal of its new customer service-oriented approach, T-Mobile’s in-house creative shop crafted a long-form five minute spot featuring comedic actor Rainn Wilson (Wilson worked closely with the team and wrote the scripts) to shine a spotlight on how difficult it can be to interact with an IVR service.

The spot, which is the first broadcast ad created by the in-house team, is titled “Customer Service Hell.” It will be trimmed down to 30-second and 15-second versions for traditional broadcast as well as edited for various digital and social pushes.

“This is one of the most profound pain points that we could’ve tackled. Eighty percent of people that call care—not our care, care in general in America—say they are left unsatisfied by the experience,” said Drake. “Worse than that, 38 percent of them said they would much rather clean a toilet than talk to an IVR. So clearly this really needed tackling and this will be a big part of differentiation, part of a long list of differentiation points. [We hope it] completely changes the telecommunications industry and we hope it will change other industries as well.”

T-Mobile also created a playbook on customer care that it will share with other companies, according to Drake.

The in-house creative shop also produced another spot without Wilson to showcase the real people behind its new customer care approach.

The company is also aiming to appeal to new customers by including perks like a Pandora Plus membership and discounted Live Nation tickets, on top of the Netflix subscription it already offers.


@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.