Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Retaining Customers

When I see companies act against their own interests it really no longer surprises me.  I suppose I have become so jaded in a sense that I can now accept that people and companies are completely inflexible from what they have been told to do.  I see this all the time, from the people at TSA that cannot make a judgement call on whether a 5 year old is a terrorist, to company presidents that believe a good business model is to sell a single screw for 50 cents and ship it for $7 (not to mention who get pretty mad when you ask if they are serious).

Case in point, I tried several months ago to upgrade my craptastic HTC Wizard phone to the new slider phone from T-Mobile called the Shadow.  My office mate, David has had good things to say so far about it, so I figured I would give it a shot.  Here's the rub - I have been a long time T-Mobile customer, so I no longer have a contract.  However, that does not mean that I get new customer pricing.  In fact, it means I get zippo for being a loyal customer.  If I want the phone, I need to pony up either the full price or I have to pay $150 and get a new two-year contract.  Keep in mind, if I was a new customer, I would get the phone for $79 and get a two-year contract.  Where's my motivation?  If I switch to AT&T, I could get the Blackjack 2 plus a much faster 3G data connection (T-Mobile is still on pokey GPRS) for only $69 and *no* contract (Microsoft has an awesome deal with AT&T).  Even if I wasn't getting a stellar Microsoft deal, I could get that phone and data plan for much cheaper by switching companies.  I mean, if you are gonna get screwed into a 2 year contract, why not take the one that screws you for less?

I pointed out that it was cheaper and faster to go with AT&T than remain with T-Mobile to the representative on the phone.  They told me to try going to the store in Redmond as they might be able to do something there more for me (as they deal with Microsoft all the time apparently).  A few weeks later when I finally got to the store, the answer was the same - "Nothing we can do" and "I don't have the authority to do that".  I don't think I was asking for a lot - just give me the same pricing as a new customer and I will even take a 2 year contract.  T-Mobile keeps me as a customer, and I get a new phone - a win, win.  Sidenote: I wasn't really surprised because as I mentioned, I am used to this now and I was dealing with the same company, that if you change your service plan to a higher (more expensive) tier will automatically add a 2 year contract.  "We punish you for spending more on our services" is the motto here - how does that make any sense?

Long story short, I quit T-Mobile and I am using AT&T again.  I was able to get the new Blackjack 2 phone, plus all the accessories and a 4GB data card for *less* than the price of the T-Mobile Shadow, plus get a much faster 3G data connection to boot - all without a contract!

Don't get me wrong, I am probably trading one problem for another, but at least I was able to get a decent phone for now and walk away feeling better about the whole situation.