In addition to revolutionizing the wireless industry, T-Mobile CEO John Legere now wants to overhaul customer call centers.
He said Wednesday that he is revamping T-Mobile’s call centers to reduce the hassle of confusing phone trees, chat bots that use canned phrases, and human representatives who seem like they’re out of the loop.
At a glitzy media event in Charleston, S.C., Legere lampooned his larger rivals like Verizon and AT&T. In his opinion, these companies spend billions of dollars to create a “massive digital fortress” between customers and human representatives.
“Instead of investing in avoiding customers, we’re investing in serving customers,” Legere said, taking one of his frequent potshots at rivals.
By carving its call support operations into teams of around 30 to 40 people, with each team responsible for different parts of the country, T-Mobile believes it can better handle customer complaints and reduce frustrations.
“This is a pain point for our customers, but it’s an epidemic that affects all service industries,” Legere told Fortune after the event. “It’s something that they hate.”
As part of the revamped customer support, each of the company’s 17 U.S.-based call centers will have teams in charge of overseeing specific places, like Minnesota or the various regions of large, metropolitan areas like New York City, said Callie Field, the T-Mobile executive vice president of customer care. Additionally, customers will be able to see photos of their customer support staff, in an effort to build a bond between the two parties.
“I truly believe there is no such thing as a bad interaction,” said Legere, even “if you’re interacting with [customers] at their angriest.”
Legere is known as an executive who attempts to push the envelope with marketing and brash proclamations as a way to distinguish T-Mobile from its rivals. The company typically casts itself as an underdog fighting on behalf of upset customers frustrated with confusing data plans and poor call-center service.
Under the new plan, T-Mobile’s specialty call center teams will field calls from 7 am to 9 pm, while its more conventional customer support service staff continue dealing with inquires 24 hours a day. By 2019, the company plans to expand its revamped customer support service to 24 hours each day, with workers in its overseas call centers handling inquiries that come in at night.
Customers can either ping their dedicated support staff by phone or text message, and can schedule phone appointments. Additionally, customers who enjoy talking to T-Mobile’s automated voice systems can still choose to do so if they wish, the company said.
Although the initiative is expensive, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert believes that, “This team of experts approach is actually good business.” If customer support can better solve problems because they know customers’ history and area of service, those customers “don’t have to call anymore.”
Legere said that T-Mobile has consulted on its customer support plans with executives from Sprint, with which T-Mobile is trying to merge in a deal worth about $27 billion. Federal regulators must approve the deal before the merger takes place.
He said that T-Mobile is offering other companies to “come and learn from us” so they can similarly overhaul their call service.
“I will personally walk the CEO of Verizon around the center,” said Legere, referring to an unlikely scene.
In any case, he believes that rivals will eventually revamp their customer support, in the way they followed T-Mobile in releasing unlimited wireless plans.
When asked what he admires about his larger competitors that he routinely criticizes, Legere said “their size.”
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“They are big,” he said. “They are really good at sucking,” he then added.