After I criticized the Deutsche Telekom recently here for their new sustainability campaign because I felt a customer service campaign would be more in the interest of their patrons – and therefore of their brand -, I received a call from an ex-colleague (yes, I worked for DT until a year ago). In that call I made the promise to be fair and also report about things going in a positive direction in my view.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to try the much criticized customer service again after a long while. I was interested in a netbook with embedded cellular and went straight to a magenta “T” store. I never considered for a second to consider a competitor because I still love the brand, believe in it’s huge – though as yet hardly tapped – potentials and feel emotionally attached to all the great people I met in my time at the company.
Without much help from the desk person (but after a very informative phone conversation with my favourite nerd at headquarters in Bonn), I settled on the model of my choice and we moved on to the tariff details. The data flat rate is at Euros 39,90 currently and I knew that already and came ready to accept it because when discounting the subsidy for the hardware of Euro 450 retail price, the remaining 20 Euros sound quite fair for an unlimited data plan to me.
I must admit, however, that I teased the frontline guy a little by testing his knowledge about the differences between the hardware options and didn’t get much meaningful info that went beyond the bullet points on the product display.
Instead, this guy had a real nugget for me! I could get the data flat tariff for 29,90 instead of 39,90, he told me, if I signed a home telephone and DSL bundle as well. This meant a saving of 240 Euros for a move I had been planning for some time anyway. That sounded like a beneficial deal for either side and we proceeded to the desk. He had won me.
After we were several steps into the contract procedure, however, he mumbled something into his computer screen and cleared his throat. Followed by the confession that, as part of this great deal for me, I would now have to contribute a mere 200 Euros for the hardware. I lost control over my face while he hurried to inform me that, though I didn’t get the netbook for 4,90 as we had both believed until this moment, this would still represent a significant saving versus street price and started counting through all the benefits of the home bundle again. I left the shop in anger before he could finish his speech which sounded now more like a plea for forgiveness than a sales pitch.
What went wrong here? Just a frontline guy who doesn’t do his homework? I would be willing to follow the ‘exception proving the rule’ hypothesis if I hadn’t noticed the same lack of second-level knowledge in almost every instore and call-center conversation in recent years. Which indicates there’s a structural deficit rather than individual incompetencies.
So, sorry my dear ex-colleagues, I only have another, more empirically based argument for a customer service campaign; not yet the good news I was looking for …
But stop. When I said I still love the brand and the people, I will follow up on that here very soon and tell you why. That’s a promise. Plus, I even have a happy ending for the story. Since last week, I’m the proud owner of a DT netbook and an unlimited data plan. After my anger had calmed down, I still found the offering worthwhile.