Tough Love From A Current T-Mobile Retention Rep

Taking a break from our whirl of ex-cellphone reps revenging themselves on their former employers, here’s a current T-mobile retention rep telling you how to handle the cancellation call, as well as a perspective on their thought processes.

You might be put off by the underlying condescending tone, but retention reps usually have an hyper-developed sense of their own power. Probably because they do wield a great deal of power when you’re trying to cancel your cellphone contract, and as he says, the relationship you build with him in the first two-minutes will make all the difference between a pleasant and a fractious parting with your cellphone company…

(Photo: gordasm)


Hi guys. I’m a CURRENT retention rep for T-Mobile USA. Here’s some tips for your readers on how to handle the cancellation call – and some inside tips on our thought processes.

Be Patient. We’re doing our job. – Face it folks, we want to talk to you about as much as you want to talk to us. If you genuinely want to end your service, then we’ll take care of you. Just like you though, we do have requirements for our job that we must perform to keep it. I know you don’t care at that point if I can save you money with a preferred plan. I know you don’t want a new phone and contract from us. Just humor us for an extra 30 seconds and let us make our offer as is required so we can move on to taking care of your cancel request. Our goal is to have you squared away within 8 minutes of answering. Often times sooner – 480 seconds is a target for average resolution time. Those eight minutes will be a lot more pleasant if you…

Be friendly and courteous. – I know there are a handful of reps out there that for whatever reason are just (insert expletive here). Most of us though are in this job because we like what we do. I personally took this job because I like talking to people and solving problems. Those skills took me out of the general queues and into retention and high-value queues. Do whatever with the gen reps. When you’re talking to a Customer Loyalty rep, though, your courtesy and conversation while we’re doing you’ve requested will be appreciated and reflected back ten-fold. This will also go a long way to help you…

Get the best deal. – So you don’t really want to cancel, but you, like countess others, understand the game. Threaten to cancel, get transferred to me, and get that POS RAZR for 29.99 shipped instead of 49.99 after rebate. This works great if you’re fully qualified (11 or more months since previous 12 month contract phone purchase or 22 months since 2 yr contract phone purchase and on a 39.99 rate plan or higher for an equal or greater number of months since same purchase – but months suspended for no pay don’t count as months towards upgrade) But if you’re not fully qualified, you don’t get the rebate for the RAZR, so the gen price is 99.99. My price is 79.99. If we’ve got good rapport going, I won’t even mention that 79.99 price to you. I can change order forms in about two clicks of a mouse and get it for you at 29.99 if I’m feeling frisky (albeit against policy, and I’m usually not going to ask my coach to violate policy) and if you’re treating me right. I’m not Monty Hall. This isn’t Let’s Make a Deal. Your kindness to me, and the relationship we build in the first 2 minutes of the call is going to determine if I am willing to sacrifice my policy compliance to keep you as a customer. I will do anything I can possibly do for you if you will understand that there are limits to what I can do, and if you will try to…

Understand the system. – When we give you a handset price, that’s our price. We cannot override that. We cannot adjust handset costs. We cannot issue credits to offset handset costs. It is simply not an option. If you don’t like the price, simply say no thank you. Don’t ask for free service. Can’t do that either. Once upon a time we had a 6th month free offer. That’s gone. Code is unrecognized now. We CAN however often times set you up on grandfathered features. For example, you want a fat messaging package on your 2 line family plan. 19.95 per month for unlimited messaging for families is right up your alley. If you’re renewing a contract, I’ll add it (or even change your existing feature) with the old FTMSG999 code and hook you up at half price. I can work the system that way. I can’t make the system give something free. Also understand that the fact that you’ve been with us since it was Arial/Voicestream/Powertel/Western Wireless is wonderful in our eyes. We truly do appreciate that loyalty. We also understand it’s been 3 years since you last got a phone, and you need a new one. But please understand that you reached maximum discount eligibility 2 years and a month ago, and you’re not entitled to anything different because you didn’t take advantage of that eligibility yet. You’ll still get a better deal than a new customer, and most of us will toss in whatever perks we can to you for that loyalty. Speaking of credits…

Adjustment guidelines. – The hard and fast rule in retention is that if you’ve been with us less than 10 months, the most credit we can give by policy is 50% of your monthly charges. After ten months, we can offer up to 100%. Doesn’t mean you’ll get that much (See tip #2), but that’s the cap. If it’s a situation where an adjustment is my only save strategy, here’s my steps. Let’s say that you get over to me because you gave a trigger statement to a gen rep since you were charged a $100 out of warranty fee for water damage on an exchanged handset. (bonus tip: triggers include asking contract end date, mentioning canceling service, mentioning another provider’s offer – all this will get you transferred to me if your line has been active greater than 10 months) First off, I’d listen to you tell me all about how you never dropped it in water (while you fail to realize that leaving it on the shelf in the bath while you take your steaming morning shower also induces water damage indicators) and how you will not pay the fee, and if we don’t take it off, you’ll cancel. Great. Makes no difference to me. So don’t pay it. You’ll be canceled soon enough anyway, and it won’t count against my numbers. While you’re telling me how inept the manufacturer’s return center is at diagnosing water damage on devices they specialize in, I’m looking first at your service start date, your contract details, then your payment history (to garner the total amount of your cash we deposited), and finally your adjustment history. So say you’ve been with us 38 months. In those 38 months, you’ve paid us 1600 dollars with an additional $400 in adjustments. So that means in just over 3 years, we’ve paid 25% of your bills for you in adjustments. Guess what percentage of your monthly charges I’m going to offer you? You guessed it – 25%. Now that may go higher, remember, I can go as high as 100%. That’s where tip #2 again kicks in. But regardless, the only way you’re getting a credit higher than one month’s service is in a re-rate situation where you went over your minutes, and agree to a new contract for a new plan in exchange for crediting overage less cost difference between old and new plans. And since we’re on the topic of plans…

Ask for a preferred plan. – So your new plan isn’t working out anymore. Don’t settle for what’s on the website. Don’t settle for what the gen rep gatekeeper tells you about. Talk to retention. Just mention “cancel” to the IVR. We’ve got a handful of unadvertised, current plans. A popular example is 1000 minutes, free nights and weekends for $39.99. What’s the catch for saving 120 bucks a year over the regular offering? In this case, we sign you up for 2 more years. Only want one year? Take 800 minutes instead for the same price – and get 200 more minutes than the standard plan at that price point. And along those lines…

Don’t fear the contract. – If you just signed a two year contract 6 months ago, all a 2 year contract does is add 6 months to the end. A one year in the same scenario doesn’t change anything. If you’re out of contract, every special offer I throw your way is going to have a contract attached. If the contract is the deal breaker, the one and only thing I’ll do out of the ordinary for you is change you to a current advertised plan and waive the contract. I’ll do that to save your line(s), but apart from that, I’ll cut my losses and cancel as you wish.

Finally, Do your homework before you call. – Don’t insult my intelligence and ask me to give you a Sidekick for free cause Sprint will. Don’t tell me that AT&T is going to give you a thousand minute family plan and two new blackberries and BIS service for 49.99 a month with no contract. My response to that nonsense? “Wow! What a great deal Mr. Beayesser! Are you porting your T-Mobile number to AT&T? No? Well then let me tell you some basic information about cancellation as I prepare to cancel your account.” If you’re going to bluff, be aware that it may just be called.

Why is it this way?– The relationship/rapport aspect is based on the fact that a) it’s common decency and b)it’s the basis for about half of our quality score. We get good scores, we get bigger bonuses, more advancement opportunities, etc. Your job gives you one, maybe 2 performance reviews a year. Mine gives me 11 each month. Handset pricing: I don’t know who sets the prices. All I know is that my order form tells me the price based on your personal account history. We simply have no way of lowering the price beyond a maximum lowest cost. Adjustment policy: T-Mobile is a business. We don’t make money by giving money away. I damn sure don’t like T-Mobile giving my money to anyone else, and I’m not going to do the same with theirs. If it’s an invalid charge, we will credit it without fail. However if you used the service, you owe the bill. Contracts: Simple. It sweetens my pot. I get an above average hourly wage, a quarterly performance bonus based on quality scores and call resolution time. I also get two monthly bonuses. I get 400 bucks if I come in contact with a minimum number of subscribers (not accounts, but rather actual active lines) who are still active 30 days after my contact with them. For each additional 25 subscribers, I get another 25 bucks, no limit. Could you put an extra $1000 to use a month? Yeah, me too. The other monthly bonus gives me $2.50 for the first 60 contracts I set for customers in the 11th (or 22d) month of contract or later. After the first 60, it’s $4 each. 200 contracts a month = $710. So yeah, it’s worth it for me to “save” you. But, coming full circle now, if you just want to cancel, let me make my one offer so I can move along, get you on with your day, and get on to my next customer with 5 lines, all out of contract, wanting to get some new Nokias.

— BEN POPKEN