T-Mobile has had quite a bit of bad press lately: between raising the price of unlimited data by $10 and taking away corporate discounts, lots of people have been quite upset. It also doesn’t help that BlackBerry’s CEO announced that the company would no longer sell BlackBerry devices through T-Mobile:
Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers. We hope to work with T-Mobile again in the future when our business strategies are aligned.
In other words, several groups of customers have been alienated.
So, perhaps in a gesture of goodwill, or in response to the inevitable hemorrhaging of customers that has surely already started, T-Mobile has decided to allow current customers who receive corporate discounts to keep them. Previously, only military and government discounts would have remained intact.
Good news. Tomorrow we will announce that current corp customer employees can keep their discounts. New plan will apply to new customers.
Some people are saying that this was just a marketing trick designed to get more publicity for T-Mobile, and to demonstrate that the T-Mobile CEO actually listens to his customers. I’m not so sure, though.
T-Mobile has had a great thing going, and the only thing that could mess that up now would be a loss in momentum, which is exactly what this created. The entire underlying purpose of UNcarrier is to gain customers. As much as Legere would like us to believe that he is changing the wireless industry (and don’t get me wrong – he is), it’s really just about numbers. If customer counts go down, UNcarrier is a failure.
It really is as simple as that. Legere underestimated how much people value discounts once they already have them. He may be right in that employer discounts don’t necessarily make most people choose a certain wireless carrier over another one initially, but once you give people that discount for an extended period of time, they start to feel entitled to it – and they get pissed when someone tries to take it away.
Legere learned an important lesson here: If current customers have a good thing going, don’t mess with it. If you need to pay off people’s ETFs in order to get them through the door, then great – and you are probably right about that being a more attractive offer for most new customers than a small employer discount. Just don’t spin this as anything else for existing customers: it was a rate hike, plain and simple, and it was the wrong time to implement it.
As Judge Judy says, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” At least Legere realized his mistake and backtracked. I just wonder how many people have already closed their accounts and moved on to a new carrier? It will be tough to regain those people’s trust.[Re/Code | Twitter]