What T-Mobile is doing to become a customer-led carrier

Digital leader describes the technological, operational and cultural changes the mobile carrier has made as it looks to be customer centric

A desire to stand out from the industry, disrupt the mobile carrier market and become more customer-led has seen T-Mobile invest in a digital technology and cultural transformation program that has doubled its customer base.

Speaking at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, T-Mobile senior VP of digital, Nick Drake, said it’s been four years since T-Mobile CEO, John Legere, announced its decision to “put an end to a stupid, arrogant and broken industry”. To achieve this, T-Mobile has launched what it calls the ‘uncarrier revolution’, reorienting the organisation around the customer and taking advantage of digital innovation to improve customer experience.

“As an industry, we were completely out of touch with customers. We needed to stand out, disrupt the industry and stand out from the other guys, who John calls dumb, dumb and dumber,” Drake said.

The ‘uncarrier revolution’ became the central organising thought to align behind. It sees T-Mobile working to identify and prioritise customer pain points then remove these through digitisation and personalisation capabilities.

Thirteen ‘uncarrier moves’ have been identified and addressed since the program of change came into effect. These include removing annual contracts and roaming fees, to ensuring loyalty offers are relevant. One of its biggest successes for example, is T-Mobile Tuesdays which reinvented loyalty by giving customers access the ability to download free stuff every week.

“We are all in servitude to our front line,” Drake said. “We do everything we can to support care agents and retail staff. Every executive is tasked with talking to customers through any medium they wish to talk to us. Because we listen, we have been able to prioritise pain points customers most want us to solve.”

The company also reinvented its rate plan to T-Mobile One. “We had 200 different rate plans at one point in time, which was very difficult for customers,” Drake said. “Today we sell one plan – unlimited to everyone, and including everything, including taxes and fees.No spurious charges.

Thanks to these efforts, T-Mobile has grown its customer base from 33 million to 72m since 2012.

While front-line has been a cornerstone to success, another foundational ingredient was ensuring T-Mobile had the right network for the future, Drake said. In 2013, T-Mobile had zero LTE; since then, it’s installed 320m pops of LTE, and now has network coverage comparable to its leading competitor, Verizon.

Yet the group still didn’t have the digital customer experience for the future two years ago, Drake said. A new objective came into being: To become a customer centric, experience first digital company where digital was native in everything T-Mobile did.

Achieving this ambition meant “splitting the monolith” and separating back-end from front-end to allow technology teams to replatform antiquated systems while T-Mobile iterated the front-end. A key foundation was adopting Adobe Marketing Cloud.

The first thing the team tackled was T-Mobile.com, which Drake described as the biggest front door to the business. Highlights included introducing lightweight video and redesigning the site from the ground up for Adobe Experience Manager.

“We were able to take 60 per cent of clicks to path to purchase and drive far greater engagement by optimising content in real-time,” he said. “We can also deliver personalisation at scale by adding Target, Audience Manager and Analytics. Now it’s a unique experience for those coming to the sites.”

What used to take days and weeks now takes minutes thanks to the platform’s capabilities around optimising content and production, Drake said. These changes saw prospect rates increase three-fold, and conversion leap by 500 per cent.

The next priority was redesigning the T-Mobile app on AEM mobile, introducing basic functionality so customers could serve themselves. What used to be 1.2 stars rating turned into best in class in three months, Drake said.

Another major milestone has been adding asynchronous messaging via mobile phone, a reflection of the way consumers communicate with each other today. This instantly connects a customer to a care agent, and features the agent’s picture and name to provide a more conversational touch.

“The conversation perpetuates indefinitely – and you always have context of conversation when you enter again,” Drake explained.

This has also been built into the Messenger funnel. As a consumer shops for accessories in messenger, they can evoke conversation with care agent who can talk through technical aspects, Drake said. It’s also been built into search product, and consumers can be immediately connected to retail rep at their nearest store via one click.

A more recent addition has been distributed commerce same-day delivery, using Uber. Thanks to this partnership, T-Mobile can ship phones to consumers in as little as 23 minutes.

But technology wasn’t the full answer to ensuring the culture changed, Drake said. It also required a new way of working, so T-Mobile removed office cubicles and replaced it with an open, agile workspace.

Drake said the next priority is ensuring T-Mobile’s offline spaces are also what’s required in the future.

“The offline strategy is to drive greater automation, stitching together cross-channel experiences and greater personalisation,” he told attendees. “But more than that, it’s imagining future that’s seamlessly connected.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit in Las Vegas as a guest of Adobe.

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