A Late Christmas Gift

>> Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So many brands today compete in commoditized industries, forced to fight tooth and nail with each other for every customer as they tout similar product features and benefits. Nowhere is this more visible than in the mobile phone industry where prices, apps, and coverage maps are the ammo used to fight the competition.

Customers are fickle, and the only thing keeping them from switching providers are exclusive phones and early termination clauses. It's rare to see these brands demonstrate true value or customer-centricity, and why should they when they have these virtual nooses around their customers' necks? Which is what makes my recent experience with T-Mobile even more remarkable.

Over the past few weeks, my BlackBerry had been crashing unexpectedly and on Christmas it did it again, although this time it wouldn't start up anymore (I was greeted by a perpetual hourglass of death). The next day I went to a local T-Mobile store and found out that the 1 year warranty expired two days prior (of course). My last hope: a phone call to Customer Care.

After explaining the situation (and politely reminding the very nice representative that I've been a happy and loyal customer for the past 7 years) T-Mobile did the right thing. They put the customer first and honored the warranty.

But the representative I spoke with didn't stop there. Because I needed to renew my service agreement, she was able to switch me to one of their new "unlimited" plans, saving me money each month. She wasn't just going to fix or replace my old phone, but offered me a brand new device (any one, my choice). Oh, and they'll ship that to me priority service at no charge (after all, it's the holidays and I don't have a phone). And while we're at it, Mr. Martino, the next month is on us. Wow. It really was Christmas on the 26th.

Besides being overjoyed at how lucky I was (after all, the other way this could have gone down ended with me spending several hundred dollars on a new phone), I kept asking myself if other companies would have gone this far. Would AT&T value me as a long time customer the same way? Would Verizon have honored my warranty, even though it expired (I happen to know from past experience that they would not have)?

Commoditized plans and services come and go. Sexy (and exclusive) new phones are always being introduced. But putting a premium on customer service and delivering on it when it matters? That's a rare trait that sets one brand apart from the others and it's why I'll be loyal to T-Mobile for a long time.


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