Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

Summary: T-Mobile is not going to be purchased by AT&T and is working hard to get the message out about their value to customers. I have five recommendations that would help me and may help others stick with the carrier.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Telcos, Wi-Fi
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I wanted to meet with T-Mobile at CES to see what their plans were now that they were not going to be purchased by AT&T. If you read my earlier post you see that T-Mobile is expanding their HSPA+ coverage, rolling out new devices, and focusing their message on the value that they bring to the table. These are all solid approaches, but I personally think there are more things that T-Mobile can do to remain a competitive wireless carrier and maybe even move up into the third position.

As posted by TMoNews.com T-Mobile's Philip Humm is focused on retaining customers and has some ideas in mind. Some of the plan was revealed, but there is a lot of marketing talk in it without too many real details. Here are five recommendations I have for T-Mobile to keep their current customers happy and even bring more people to their network:

  1. Shared family data: Verizon has been talking about this, but no carrier has yet to come up with a data plan that is modeled after the shared minute plans. If carriers can do it for minutes, why can't they do it for data? I understand they are making nice profits off of us with required data plans on smartphones, but requiring individual data plans for each phone on a family plan is a bit ridiculous. I have five phones on T-Mobile, but only mine and my wife's have data since I cannot stomach another $60 to $90 per month for reasonable data limits on three more phones. I would pay a reasonable fee for a block of data that we could all share and manage ourselves.
  2. Notification to primary account holder before ANY account actions are taken: I previously wrote about the questionable policy change T-Mobile rolled out for new data charges and was disappointed in their actions since I have always had excellent customer service over the last 10 years. The problem was that they sent text messages to my daughter's phones without informing me and enabled data without my consent. I recommend T-Mobile initiate a policy where NO actions or changes are made on an account without the express permission of the primary account holder.
  3. Remove upgrade fee: T-Mobile currently charges customers $18 to upgrade their phones. What is this mystery fee for, just pure profit? I recommend that T-Mobile at least do away with the fee for long time (say 5+ years) customers to help reduce churn and encourage upgrades.
  4. Loyal customer upgrade bonuses: T-Mobile (like most carriers) let's you get the benefit of the full subsidy to upgrade your phone once every two years. However, the mobile space moves super fast today and some of us phone geeks would like to upgrade more often (say every 6 months to a year) so it would be great if T-Mobile could offer long time customers more subsidy incentives to upgrade and continue to extend their contract. Shoot, if I could get a full subsidy every year I would probably sign a 5 year contract since I am very happy with T-Mobile and have no plans to leave anyway.
  5. Work with Apple to get the iPhone on their network: I have an iPhone 4S on Verizon, but if T-Mobile had the iPhone both my wife and I would have one on T-Mobile. Even though T-Mobile is the smallest of the four major carriers in the U.S., I would think that they could sell at least 1 million iPhones to their approximate 33 million subscribers, and likely much more than that. The issue that prevents the current iPhone from working with T-Mobile is a technical one related to the 1700 MHz frequency T-Mobile uses for data, but Nokia and Samsung (Galaxy Nexus) have made penta-band smartphones that work around the world and on T-Mobile USA so why can't Apple do the same?

Do you agree with these recommendations? What other ideas do you have for making T-Mobile a more attractive and competitive wireless carrier?

UPDATE (Recommendation to partner with Truphone): One of you made a comment below (mc40638) about international travel options and in the past I have used T-Mobile in Mexico to make quick calls home at fairly reasonable rates. I think a very cool option would be for T-Mobile to partner up with someone like Truphone and offer a Tru SIM service. There could be major benefits to customers even if T-Mobile just created a partnership where they would promote the Tru SIM service and give customers such a SIM to use overseas. It would be great if customers could have their Tru SIM reloaded through their T-Mobile online account too. I doubt such a great deal would happen though since carriers get major bucks with overseas roaming, but if the customer experience truly is the priority then this would be a great strategy for travelers.

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28 comments
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  • shared family data

    I think this is a great idea. Since the other carriers arent doing this, it would be a great way for T to attract customers.

    Make it simple and the customers will come.
    otaddy
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    Your suggestions are spot on! I would definitely consider changing to a carrier that would offer shared data!
    mthoughton
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    Love all the ideas. My family is on T-Mobile (wife and kids), I have a work iPhone on At&T. We have been with T-Mobile since the start (we used to be on PowerTel with they 1st started years ago).
    ItsTheBottomLine
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    Stay away from negative advertising. After Apple ads did nothing more than belittle Miscrosoft, T-mobile copy-catted them. When I look at ads (product and political) the only thing I want to see is what their product will do and how that will make life easier for me if I purchase. If the only thing you can say about your product is how bod the competition is; you only convince me more that your product has little to say for itself. T-mobile ads are currently condescending and do not tell the whole story. Come clean in your advertising and I may come back even though my last visit to a T-mobile store in Tampa, FL was a joke. When I asked if they had coverage in Alaska and Hawaii (we were getting set to travel to visit our grand-kids and take a vacation), the young rep did not know where they were. So also train your reps a little bit better.
    jfeeman
    • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

      @jfeeman
      The sales rep is probably a reflection of what our education systems are producing. This information is easily available at T-Mobile's site. I have found their site to be the most accurate as far as coverage is concerned. As a rep said to me once, we use a fine point pen, others us a wide magic marker.
      Some guy_z
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    No question T-Mobile needs an iPhone. Only question is whether they can negitiate a deal with Apple taht doesn't require them to hand over their first born son (see the recent Sprint iPhone 4S deal).
    dsf3g
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    Oh yeah. And keep the girl in the purple dress.
    TaxNerd
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    Welcome to America! From what I have heard this is the home of INNOVATION, ENTREPRENEURIALISM, and COMPETITION. Currently, there isn't a dime's worth of difference in wireless carriers. If T-Mobile wants more market share, they need to do better and more of and than what the others do. How about more flexible equipment deals; like paying a little more up front, but getting a 6 month, 12 month or 18 month contract? How about making pay as you go more flexible; roll-over, include some form of data that makes sense, etc.? How about more variety in pricing to take into account actual needs of a variety of users -- Moms, Dads and kids have different needs than business users; why not price accordingly? Use some imagination, T! The U.S. market is not just one huge blob! Analyze it, and tailor your services to it. Try experimental servicing regionally, then roll out what works!
    namobo
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    I think they should do away with the changing your plan fee. I have been a T-Mobile customer since they stated in Illinois and when I switched to the new plan they charged me $150.00 per line. It was a complete rip off.
    wayneo@...
  • Changes without authorization

    We have T-Mobile phones that are out of contract. My wife walked into a T-Moble store to look at new phones. Just look. They changed our plan and locked us into a 2 year contract. After 20 calls we think it got straightened but are not really sure. They really need to double check with the primary account holder before doing anything.
    MichaelBarb
    • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

      @MichaelBarb They couldn't "change your plan" or "lock you in" to anything unless you gave all of your information to the sales people, for starters. That's more than just looking.
      jgm@...
    • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

      Duplicate post - see below...
      natalie@...
    • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

      @MichaelBarb Undoubtedly the reason you had to make 20 calls was because you had a language barrier with the people who in the Philippines who reviewed your account. I am one of the thousands of call center agents in the U.S. and Canada who became unemployed last year thanks to T-Mobile's outsourcing tactics. It wasn't enough that they hired outsourcing companies to open call centers in the remotest parts of North America (ours was 100 miles from the nearest T-Mobile store or tower), in order to avoid paying decent wages or benefits to their customer service reps. Nope, they had to take it a step further and re-outsource our jobs to the Philippines and Costa Rica. A year later, hundreds of us are still sitting unemployed in our little backwater while the government sends us to vocational training programs at those dubious schools you always see advertised on TV. We can't find comparable jobs since our call center shut down. Thanks for nothing, T-Mobile.
      natalie@...
      • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

        @natalie@... Thanks for posting this. T-Mobile was always known for having the best customer service. That DID change radically when they off-shored their customer service. I have no contract and because of the drop in customer service, I am now looking elsewhere. I realize all phone companies are doing the same thing and I will confront bad service, but I no longer feel any loyalty to T-mobile. I feel compelled to move and want to let them know why. If they want to differentiate themselves, they will attract a lot of customers simply by promoting their American-based customer service. Bring it back and promote the heck out of it. Tap into the American anger of off-shore customer service.
        rle11wb@...
  • A Sixth recommendation

    For long time customers, expand the Customer Loyalty Plan to be more than just minutes. And just because I am now out of contract, doesn't mean I am going to leave, it just means that I don't want a contract. I want to get an unlocked Lumia 900, for which I will pay a hefty price and not get a subsidy, but I am not going to go to AT&T for my service. Seems so easy, but Loyalty is just that, and to only give Loyal Customers a great deal on minutes is a bit outdated.
    HarleyBigDog
    • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

      @HarleyBigDog Your idea with the Lumia 900 illustrates just what T-Mobile is up against. That's one of the leading new Windows 7 Phones, which, like the iPhone and some of the leading Android phones, isn't on T-Mobile, and may never be.

      You can certainly buy a Lumia 900 and use it on T-Mobile. In 2G mode. T-Mobile doesn't use the same frequencies that AT&T uses for 3G, so it's unlikely you'll have any compatibility there (it's not actually out yet, but so far, none of the phones on AT&T can do 3G on 1700/2100MHz). And of course, T-Mobile hasn't even a plan to support LTE (one of the major features of the 900 and other 2011/2012 device... T-Mobile doesn't currently have the budget or the spectrum for real 4G).
      Hazydave
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    >T-Mobile (like most carriers) let???s you get the benefit of the full subsidy to upgrade your phone once every two years.

    this is not nearly correct - they offer _many_ phone discounts/sales to new customers that are not available to existing customers even if they have the full 2 year subsidy available. this ticks me off more than anything, all the cellphone/tv/internet subscription companies do it.
    fid4
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    Another two recommendations. The first just requires a change in policy. Verizon allows one to disable service will not in a Verizon service area (such as Europe). Verizon's will do this for up to three months at a time, but one can simply disable service a 2nd time. Of course, your contract is extended by the time you are disabled, but the charges are essentially $5 a month. T-Mobile provides a similar service but one is ONLY allowed 3 months a year. They do not advertise this limitation in fact.

    The second recommendation would be to offer a GLOBAL plan instead of raping customers with global roaming. In fact, virtual or replacement SIMS while travel would be neat, and worth the premium. T-Mobil is an international company and technically this should be possible. Similarly for Verizon (Vodafone and Vodacom).
    mc40638
  • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

    I switched to T-Mobile right after AT&T became Cingular and have been with them ever since. As a long-term customer who has multiple lines with premium services, I'm exactly the type of customer they want to keep. I have deliberately not renewed my contract because the day T-Mobile and AT&T merged would have been the day I became a Sprint customer. Now that the merger is off, I find myself in the position of being contract free and thinking about what it would take for me to sing another contract (as opposed to staying m2m). Here's my list (plus a few extras):

    8. LTE is the future. Please invest in it... and do it right. T-Mobile has mad props from me for fully leveraging HSPA+ (although I shake my fist at calling it 4G). No other carrier is as good at squeezing every drop of performance from a technology. Do this with LTE.

    7. Bring back T-Mobile @Home. This is a no-brainer.

    6. Make unlimited UMA calling an affordable option again (or free, like it was in the beginning). Especially when you're the smallest carrier, but the only one that supports UMA... UMA is a MAJOR coverage advantage and, frankly, UMA calls often sound better than GSM/3G.

    5. Make customer loyalty rewards that actually reward long-term loyal customers. About 2 years ago, I got a call from T-Mobile offering me a customer loyalty plan for having been a long-term subscriber. I ran the numbers and it would have increased my bill by $30 a month without adding any value. Lame and insulting. How about, instead, all customers of 4-7 years get a 5% discount and customers of 7+ years get 10%. And this discount applies to your total bill (minus taxes and tariffs). The mechanism is already there through corporate discounts.

    4. Plans. T-Mobile used to have really great plans. Unlike most of the 1-size fits no one plans that the other cell companies had, T-Mobile used to have a variety of customizable offerings that let people find a plan to fit their needs.

    3. Market yourself as the "scrappy underdog" who will go above and beyond to meet the customer's needs. Americans like to root for the underdog and if there's a value-add to the underdog, so much the better.

    2. T-Mobile's Customer Service used to be the best in the industry. It has slipped. This needs to be fixed.

    1. iPhone. Sell your first born or whatever else it takes to get a penta-band iPhone (and iPad) on your network. I'm a BlackBerry user, so I don't give a rip for myself... but I know quite a few people who have left T-Mobile soly because of the iPhone. (Side note: all of them migrated to Verizon or AT&T... and hate everything about their new companies. These types of people are opportunities waiting to happen!

    Keeping in mind that you can have my BlackBerry when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands... If T-Mobile is up for sale, perhaps Apple would consider becoming a majority shareholder, or owning it outright. I imagine it would be a great competitive advantage to control the stack, end-to-end... And a way to cut off one of the most prolific sellers of droids. 2 birds, one stone?

    Just my $0.02.
    eak2000
    • RE: Five recommendations that could help T-Mobile USA in 2012

      @eak2000 T-Mobile's trick with HPSA+ is their best self-defense move, but it's also limited. Any carrier could offer their level of HSPA+ performance... as long as you're the only one on the cell. The theoretical speed is 84 Mbit/s down and 22 Mbit/s up... per cell. Not that phones can effectively use that anyway, but all of the carriers put on caps that limit the top speed to any single device. This allows more devices to share the bandwidth. In AT&T's case, they're usually overloaded in most places, so they had little choice but set lower caps than T-Mobile. Now, like Verizon, they're trying to push as many users off to the much higher bandwidth LTE networks where available. T-Mobile's approach only works as long as they're not very successful. If they had more users, the system would break down, much as AT&T's has in some locales.

      The other problem they have, like Sprint, is frequency allocation. I was on T-Mo some years back, but they simply couldn't deliver service to my house. I live in a forest, and 1900MHz, 1700MHz, and 2100MHz is just not good through foliage. Verizon, on 850MHz for voice and data, 700MHz (not yet where I love) for LTE, is far better. Sprint's had the same problem, a bit worse given their 2500MHz band for WiMax, but they're rolling out LTE on the old Nextel bands, around 800MHz, so T-Mo is going to stand alone at a disadvantage, not just lacking a 4G band, but being stuck with range issues on their current bands.

      Aside from that, I agree with you -- they need to offer a real difference in plans. This has been the primary strategy of the small guys, MetroPCS and Cricket, and it's worked well for them. T-Mobile isn't going to survive being just a slightly cheaper version of AT&T.
      Hazydave