What happens when T-Mobile and AT&T duke it out on Twitter over a potential customer?

What happens when T-Mobile and AT&T duke it out on Twitter over a potential customer?

Summary: And it got even better when T-Mobile chief executive John Legere entered the ring.

TOPICS: Networking
T-Mobile's John Legere scores some serious points when he gets down in the mix with a potential new customer. (Image: CNET)

It's not often you see two companies battling it out in public — let alone in front of a combined 600,000 people on Twitter. But when you do, you can expect sparks to fly.

Jay Rooney took to the microblogging site this week to question why he's still has service with AT&T, which charges through the nose for overseas data. T-Mobile doesn't, and recently pitched unlimited data and texting worldwide in efforts to stand out from the crowd while appeasing the millions of travelers on its roster.

Rooney's one, simple tweet was enough of a catalyst for AT&T and T-Mobile to engage in a virtual fist-fight for the hand of a customer, which saw T-Mobile's boss enter the mix and win over not one, but likely many more potential customers.

AT&T and T-Mobile, the second and fourth largest U.S. cellular companies respectively, used to be close friends. In 2011, the two companies proposed a merger for $39 billion that would see the combined company take on Verizon for the first-place slot. But the Justice Dept. blocked the proposal claiming it would cripple the country's cellular competition. The deal eventually collapsed — both companies taking a financial hit as a result — leaving the two firms well and truly off each other's the Christmas card list.

Since then, the two firms have taken almost every opportunity to take pot-shots at each other. At T-Mobile's Uncarrier event in March, executives mocked AT&T's "confusing" data plans and network speeds, among other things.

Here's what happened in the latest AT&T v. T-Mobile war of words.

T-Mobile immediately, without missing a beat, jumps in to help — not without throwing a right-hook at AT&T, calling it an "old-school" carrier.

Rooney seems to be upbeat about the prospect of T-Mobile's service.

But then the cellular turf war begins as AT&T catches on to the T-Mobile's subversive customer snatch and enters the fray.

At which point Rooney plays objective commentator:

He considers AT&T's pitch, but casually suggests he should get something out of it.

T-Mobile, feeling a little undercut, takes a swipe at AT&T with a scathing subtweet, and ups its offer to Rooney.

To which Rooney replies:

But AT&T wants to downplay the rivalry with its cellular frenemy.

And then things get really interesting when T-Mobile chief executive John Legere, a seasoned tweeter, throws down the corporate gauntlet with this zinger:

And that seals the deal. Rooney's convinced.

But others watching the two companies duke it out from the sidelines are starting to throw their weight behind T-Mobile.

And another enters the ring:

Legere's just scored himself at least two new customers thanks to his tactical tweeting.

T-Mobile's official Twitter account, the social face of the company, tweets out so others following the cellular company are shown what good public relations looks like.

Another disgruntled cellular customer, Gabe Guerrero, sees what's going on and throws in their two cents.

And then something incredible happens as the conversation snowballs further. Sprint gets dragged into the fray as others' look at their own personal circumstances and consider jumping ship to a rival.

Guerrero explains his situation, and showing his frustration threatens a complete walk-out. 

Sprint, looking a little desperate, throws out all the stops to prevent a customer bailing on their service.

There's a lesson to be learned from this. Customer engagement through carefully defined and considered strategy is all good and well. But when a company chief executive, like John Legere, who has a penchant for saying it how it is in a brutally honest and frank way (trust me on this one) gets right down to the customer-facing level, it certainly doesn't hurt. 

In this case, it will likely result in not just one new customer, but many. That's social engagement and marketing done right, kids. Class dismissed.

Topic: Networking

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  • Happy with @TMobile and #uncarrier

    I'm paying $30/mo. for 100 voice minutes and 5GB 4G data. @TMobile #uncarrier
    Grayson Peddie
    • Having travelled through it the US and the World

      For the past 18 months, with a T-Mobile and ATT phone to Asia, Europe and South America, and over 28 eastern and Midwest states (while in the US had Sprint service as well). I have found the following to be true.

      T-mobile works great internationally via its wifi calling, though you need wifi. In the US or works great, specially with LTE. Hot spot actually works unlike the other two and you can carry on voice conversations at the same time. On the negative side, they only have edge which is useless on some highways, though they've improved drastically the past few months. Their building coverage is also a problem at times. Otherwise they are the best as most cost effective. The fact you can legally unlock your phone with TMobile just makes them the best choice around, specially now that their devices can now work on intending gsm bands.

      ATT is ridiculously expensive and still messes up billing (the reason i left them), if you are able to get past their run a round tactics you finally reach a helpless desk. Though on the plus side, if you just use their LTE it works even inside buildings until you reach 2gb in a day then it just doesn't work. It cannot do data and voice efficiently if at all, and their plans favor IOs devices.

      Sprint has an OK coverage though it just never excels on any regard. And their support is subpar. Since they have taken over Clear that service had become unreliable, so this is the reason we never consider them.

      Verizon has have the best coverage in the US and the worst internationally, we don't bother with them due to their price and service as well as versatility of their devices internationally.
  • What a difference a continent makes...

    over here, T-Mobile is the over prices incumbent...
  • Tmo

    has excellent prices no doubt about it. I have my son on their $30/month plan. However for me TMO's network is just too spotty. I have a fairly rural commute and there are just too many dead zones. I switched to AT&Ts prepaid service AIO for $55/month. I would gladly switch back to tmo but, I need better coverage outside of the major metropolitan areas.