Bob Garfield's "Comcast Must Die" got me thinking about his assertion – repeated to me today at the Networked Journalism summit – that if someone decided to go high-end with telecom service, be the "Nordstrom," they'd have a wide-open field.
I recently added a couple of lines to my T-Mobile cellphone service, got two more handsets, and replaced my old HP Ipaq with their high-end T-Mobile Wing device. I even signed onto a new contract – something I dread, having once lost $170 to cancel another service -- at a higher price than my previous contract-less service. There are various reasons I stay with T-Mobile (international quad-band phones, ability to include Hot Spots, contract length, etc), but one I find persuasive is I end up not hating the company every month. This is unlike other services I've had over the years, from about all the major carriers.
The pleasantness happened not only when I was calling to sign up, but even after they've gotten me locked into a yearlong contract (and it is a year long, not two!). Whenever I've called, T-Mobile people have stayed on the line with me through multiple reboots and software installations, called back as they promised, even offered an automated call-back service (that works!) when hold time is more than two minutes. When I have trouble with the Wing, they get an expert, escalate to a bigger expert if need-be, talk me through installs and uninstalls, tell me what T-Mobile dealer to go to near me. When I suggested someone stay on the line with me so I wouldn't get bounced among departments, he agreed and did so. When I told one helpful woman she was spending a long time and asked whether it wouldn't look bad on her record for spending so long – maybe 45 minutes – with one customer, she said it averaged out at the end of the day. Someone else found a way to give me the same data service I had ordered for $10 less per month. That paid for about half the Wing.
Sure, sometimes the people don't know as much as I think they should, and I suppose I'm more of a power user than they're used to, because I ask a lot of questions that send them to checking documentation. Regardless of how nice they are, it's infuriating that I've had to spend hours just to learn how to use a device I've paid beaucoup bucks for. But the people on the line are invariably pleasant and seem to want to help, no matter how long it takes. That's worth a lot to me, and has kept me with them, when I could have easily switched.