Mag Says T-Mobile Is The Best At Cell Phone Customer Service

Laptop Mag pitted AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon in a battle royale to decide who was the fairest of them all in regards to customer service. The magazine’s investigation found T-Mobile led in all three ways to contact the companies — the physical store, online and over the phone — and took the overall crown.

The big loser — justifying moans from an ocean of iPhone owners — is AT&T. The story says:

AT&T lands last in our tests. Our in-store experience left us with one question out of three unanswered and we were shocked that one representative couldn’t help get our email up and running (though another rep at a different store was successful). Our trial of AT&T’s web support turned up similar results when one online associate told us they don’t support Slacker software, and one of our phone support calls lasted 45 minutes without resolving the last of our issues.

Anyone who wants to bash or praise their cell phone company in the comments can have at it.

Rating the Carriers: Customer Service Showdown [Laptop]
(Thanks, Daniel!)


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  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Of course, this is pretty subjective – everyone with a “Verizon sucks” story inevitably also has a bad customer service story. The Verizon phone customer service is terrible, IMO. I had to start making two phone calls after billing credits went unapplied, I kept getting overcharged, etc. and I realized that one call wasn’t enough because no one actually did what they said they would do!

    Verizon was a nightmare for me, customer service wise. On the flip side, AT&T’s phone customer service gets a bad rating, but I have always been successful.

    I mean, if you’re looking for companies to work with a wide range of software or tools that are not widely used – Slacker, for instance – I get why there may be problems. T-Mobile’s demographics skew a lot younger than the other companies’, I suspect. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  2. colorisnteverything says:

    T-mobile gets terrible service in this area, so I don’t care how good customer service is, I am not signing up for a plan that requires me to leave my dorm completely just to make a call. It was the same thing with our flat in the UK!

    Based on my UK experience, they DID have the best customer service, but unfortunately required you to have a UK card to top up, so I didn’t stay with them long. It cost me too much in withdrawl fees on pay-as-you-go. My BF had them, though, and his plan was 20 GBP ($30.00) a month for 700 minutes, unlimited data, etc and anytime he had a problem, he was able to call them and get it sorted.

    • Jakuub says:

      @colorisnteverything: T-Mobile is also the only US carrier offering phones with UMA – calling via WiFi with handoff to towers if you leave the WiFi area. I recently moved and got similarly crappy reception – I upgraded to a phone with UMA and haven’t ever had better coverage.

    • zibby says:

      @colorisnteverything: I’m with ya. I gave T-Mobile a shot a few years back and there were a ton of dead spots – with the major one (for me) being my entire apartment.

      • merely_a_muse says:

        @zibby: This was why I switched carriers. It didn’t work in my entire house or any spots in my boyfriend’s apartment. I’ve had great coverage & no customer service problems thus far with Sprint.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @colorisnteverything: T-Mobile coverage in DC is apparently shoddy at best, and I didn’t feel like spending two weeks hoping that my call would go through, only to return the phone, cancel my plan and find a new carrier. Now that AT&T users get full bars inside most underground Metro stations, I’m set! Consumerist on the Metro!

      • pot_roast says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Actually, T-Mobile now has coverage on the DC Metro too. :)

        I’m out in the cow fields in North Texas and have excellent 3G coverage with T-Mobile. 5 bars and stuff everywhere I go. We had awful Verizon coverage and they ran my wife through the ringer and wouldn’t let us out of the ETFs even though we had trouble tickets open for poor coverage. (They kept saying they were unable to reproduce, despite the fact that we *could* with 3 different phones!)

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @pot_roast: Yeah, but elsewhere in the city, it’s apparently kind of blegh. And I checked all the places we go to visit family – no reception at all. At least with AT&T we get one or two bars. I think with T-Mo we’d get nothing at all.

    • Jeff-er-ee says:

      @colorisnteverything: T-Mo coverage has been pretty good for us in the S.F. Bay Area, and even the spots that it would drop out previously seem to have been fixed. I really haven’t had much of an issue other places that I’ve traveled either, but admittedly it’s been mostly West Coast travel. Customer Service with them has been good in my experience as well, although their plans are sometimes a bit difficult to sort out, especially their data plans (the “T-Zones” thing is a nightmare…).

  3. startertan says:

    Now of course I’ve had the opposite. I find that calling VZW CS is the best, the store 2nd, and the web 3rd. Their website does suck donkey b@lls. Everytime I’ve called they are quick, helpful and accommodating. The only reason the store is bad is that they are always full of people and the wait times, especially for service/tech support, can be looooooooong.

    • bohemian says:

      @startertan: Verizon customer service is spotty. It seems to depend on the rep you get on the phone. Our Verizon stores are horrible. We did have two former Gateway employees working at one that actually would help people. The rest are staffed with surly 20 somethings who only care about whatever points or commission they get by selling you certain things.

      Right now our options are Verizon or Sprint and Sprint actually has worse coverage than Verizon if that is even possible.

  4. Jeangenie says:

    I’ve heard a few nightmare stories about T-Mobile customer service regarding billing issues. I’m guessing that wasn’t one of the issues they tested on. I have been very happy with Verizon phone support, but the web is pretty hopeless and I do agree that the in-store option is very unattractive due to the wait times, but when I’ve had to go in I’ve always walked away satisfied.

  5. Riff Raff says:

    In respect to AT&T and T-Mobile, I agree with this assessment entirely.

    When my family and I were on a family cell phone plan with T-Mobile, things did go wrong. Incorrect bills and spotty service at our house were the biggest concern. While the latter issue would not be resolved without a Femtocell or erecting another tower in our area, every time there was a billing issue, T-Mobile’s reps were always courteous and fixed the issue immediately.

    AT&T, how we love to hate you, and hate to love you. Their cell service on our current family plan has been pretty flawless. We receive strong signal wherever we go. My Uverse internet has been pretty good, except for the three technicians PLUS installer it took to get the service working, and the nagging page loading issues. My mom, on the other hand, would love to choke the life out of every rep she has had to deal with.

    About 18 months ago, we “upgraded” our phones through the AT&T website. My phone went flawlessly. My parents’ phones were a complete disaster. The transition failed, and ended up bricking both their old and new phones. Nobody, not the CSR’s, not tech support, not managers, nor the store reps could reactivate either set of phones (???). They had to wait over a month for AT&T to snail mail a return slip, and mail back different phones. While my parents were fairly compensated monetarily for this clusterfuck, nothing can undue how much my parents hate AT&T.

    Personally, I’m a little miffed that that every phone that AT&T offers with WiFi requires their $30 data plans. I find it funny that AT&T wants people to have a “predictable” bill every month, but yet is quite eager to institute pay-per-bit Internet access. Hypocrisy and corporate, monopolistic bullshit at it’s finest.

    You stay classy, Death Star.

  6. bender123 says:

    I have been on sprint for a little over two years and it is amazing. They went from some of the worst cell customer service to one of the best. Everyone I talked to can speak English (One rep was a little too friendly/chatty…rather that than sounding pissed) and I really appreciate their follow up calls after a tech support issue. After any tech issue they call back two days later to make sure everything is still working and if there is any other issue that has come up. Sprint is an A+ in my book…Just need to keep my Centro working for two more weeks to get my new Android phone…

    • tbax929 says:

      I agree with you about Sprint. I’ve been with them for many years and have been happier with them than I had with any other carrier. My coverage area is great, the prices are fantastic, and now we have Android phones.

  7. pop top says:

    AT&T must just hate their cellphone customers. I’ve had great experiences with them w/r/t landlines and Internet. Maybe they put all the bad CSRs in the cellphone call centers?

  8. Scuba Steve says:

    T-Mobile was a great help when I was porting my pre-paid cell number to AT&T. The CSR I was working with did conference calls with the AT&T rep because AT&T was sitting on their behinds on getting everything set up for the switch.

    You’d think the company that was getting my business would work harder than the one that I was leaving, but not in the Cell Phone world.

  9. corinthos says:

    Tmobile customer service is pretty good but I can only compare that to ATT since I never had the others.
    Went to a Tmobile store with a G1 I bought at walmart to get a screen protector. The store rep asked me if I wanted him to put it on and I was like oh sure. It didn’t get on right so he opened another box and tried again and it was on perfect.
    I’ve never had any billing disputes but did have a problem with a blackberry surfing the web. Unlike ATT seems to do Tmobile figured it out before having me master reset my phone.
    I dealt with ATT/Cingular for 5 years before. So tired of the scripted troubleshooting. It usually ends in them telling me to master reset which I always save for a last resort. By the time our 30 minute conversation is done the post I made on web forums got replies with the actual way to fix the problem.

    I had noticed with ATT before when I lived in Indiana and I lived in California I got totally different levels of customer service. At first I thought it was just in my head but then was told it was split in two different systems Care and something that started with a T and Care had been there longer so I guess they were used to giving horrible customer service. Now they are combined again so probably would have to deal with all those people who don’t care about their jobs again if I still had them.

  10. katia802 says:

    When I was at my old job, most of my day was dealing with cell phone problems for the company phones. ATT I would get CSRs that would chew food while on the phone, curse at me, raise their voices because I refused to just hang up when they decided not to do their jobs and I asked for a supervisor. Sprint/Nextel and Verizon were just as hard to get resolutions from, but at least their CSRs were unfailingly polite to me.

  11. PickyPatron says:

    I would have to agree that T-Mobile’s customer service is pretty stellar. I was with them for 5 years before I moved to another state and had to switch because the coverage wasn’t as good. I nearly cried when I had to do it, too.

    Exemplary tale (just one of many): I once got caught in a downpour with my phone in the pocket of my jeans and it got soaked before I could get to shelter. It obviously stopped working. I was sure that I would have to pay for the replacement, since it was my own fault that it had gotten wet. But when I went to the T-Mobile store and explained what happened, they looked up my account and told me that since I had been such a loyal customer that they would replace the phone for me. Got a new phone by mail 2 days later. I <3 T-Mobile. And I miss them.

  12. jaya9581 says:

    I’ve had Cingular/ATT, Tmobile, and Verizon over the years.

    ATT was great until they merged with Cingular, then everyone I know dropped them like a hot potato. Any company that can tell me that it’s not their problem that my phone doesn’t work in Los Angeles (and I mean nothing works – people can’t even leave me voicemails!) and refuses to troubleshoot/fix the issue or issue me a credit doesn’t deserve my money or any of my friends/family’s money.

    Verizon we tried for a brief time when my husband got a good discount through work. We didn’t really like the phones and we didn’t get great reception in our house (the perils of living next to a fire station), so we canceled within 3 days (contract gave us 30) and sent everything back. Cue a 60-day fight with them to get a refund. They tried every trick known to man, including stating they never received the phones, to not refund us. Thank goodness they were sent back FedEx. Even after providing them with the exact date, time, name and signature sheet of who accepted the phones, it still took 3 weeks for them to agree to issue the refund.

    Tmobile we’ve had for about 8 years. Although we still didn’t get reception in the home next to the fire station, we’ve never had a problem anywhere else. I’ve never had a serious customer service issue with them that wasn’t promptly resolved, and I’ve had many that went above and beyond to help us. AND we get a discount on our bill with our AAA membership.

  13. sonneillon says:

    I prefer talking to the TMobile people over the AT&T people. I know that much. Sprint people are pretty good and I have never had to request someone who speaks better English. “sorry your accent is too thick and your English is not very good, can you transfer me to someone who speaks clearer English.” Try it next time you get outsourced. 50/50 you get hung up on or get someone you can understand.

  14. Duckula22 says:

    Which is basically the only reason I stay with T-Mobile.

  15. IndyJaws says:

    As an ex-Sprinter, I’ll definitely say YMMV from the results of this survey. I found their phone support to be rude on a good day and their stores to be knowledgeable only on how to best scam their customers. Surprise, surprise, I’m actually happy with AT&T. I lucked out and got a fantastic local store rep who knows her stuff inside and out and looks for the best ways to save me time and money (eg. steering me away from a more expensive phone for my daughter based on how she would use it, allowing us to add a phone without the data requirement posted on the sales tag, swapping out a defective battery when she could have easily referred us to their service center). The phone reps have been polite and have addressed any concerns quickly – they’re empowered to make decisions, rather than Sprint constantly wanting to pass the buck.

    Of course, for my good experiences, there are others with just the opposite. As I said, YMMV.

  16. chuloallen says:

    As much as I like T-mobile (had them for 6 years) their prices are not competitive at all. I would have to pay $260 on a family share plan for 5 with data (for 4) when compared to sprint that will cost me $170.
    This “Must have data for any smartphone” is a deal breaker for me when they overcharge for it.

    • Jeff-er-ee says:

      @chuloallen: That’s been just the opposite of my experience, although I’m still in the “dark ages” and don’t have a data plan (I use my phone to make phone calls and that’s about it). I check plans from time to time and T-Mo still comes back as the best deal for our uses. However, the wife is beginning to make noises about wanting web surfing, so I may need to drag myself kicking and screaming into the 21st century pretty soon…

  17. lchen says:

    i’ve been with verizon since 2001, the service has always been good (bars everywhere) and cs has been easy enough by phone or web and there are plenty of verizon stores in the city. since adding on more lines for the family the price per line is very good. the selection of phones was never much but i only use it for calls and the occasional text.
    my cousin is on t-mobile and i swear half the time the calls just doesn’t get thru (i don’t call that often), it doesn’t even let me leave a voice mail. but i am jealous of her google phone.

  18. YardanCabaret says:

    Not surprising news, T-mobile wins J. D. Powers customer service award in cell providers every year for like 8 straight. They are also the only one of the 4 that ever shows up on the lists of best customer service companies nation wide. Number 6 last i checked a few years back. The others consistently end up on the worst customer service list for companies nation wide. So again, not surprising that T-Mo came in first.

  19. almightytora says:

    I call BS on the results. I have had multiple problems with phones (CSR claimed I didn’t have insurance when I did and I had to pay $300 for a new phone), credits that were promised but never issued until I fired off an e-mail to corporate, and other issues.

    Trust me… if I had a no-penalty clause in breaking my contract, I would have.

  20. Shine-runner says:

    I have been with verizon one month, alltel for 8 years. My wifes touch pro’s keyboard quit, the phone was 4 months old. The store on republic road told me it just needed an update. I didn’t even waste my time. I went to the store on Kansas expressway, not a problem, replacement phone was here in 4 days. Bad screen. Went back to the store on Kansas expressway. Replacement phone arrived in 2 days. Phone would not come off roam. Went to the store on Republic road, was number 3 in line, 45 minutes later when I left was still number 3 in line. Went to store on Battlefield road, had another phone ordered. Was here in two days. I asked for the district managers number, sorry can’t have Deans number he is special you know, can’t be bothered by customers problems. Did get store managers email, sent an email, never got a reply. New phone comes stuck on roam, called tech support. Take it to the store and they will manually update it by hooking it up to a computer. Went to kansas expressway store, they couldn’t update it had no clue what I was talking about. But tech stuck it on an old alltel tower. Worked ok for 2 weeks, then went back on roam. Went back to kansas store, got it updated. I am so tired of hearing well we are switching. Thats no excuse for bad techs, bad support. I spent over 7 hours getting one phone fixed, wasted at least a tank of gas and got to see 3 verizon stores. With the wait time at the republic road store, I did get to hear the techs, some great football scores, and the women just wanted a phone not internet and all the other stuff the tech insisted she have shoved down her throat. I hope Verizon understands, when my contracts end, I am switching too. Even if its to a string and a can.

  21. antisan says:

    ATT never dropped my calls. T-Mobil seems to drop them all the time in my apartment building and then often once a nigh (and for some reason? Almost always right during an important conversation.) I don’t know if its just my phone but it makes me want to murder them.

  22. melkdaddy says:

    It’s all about AMHRSC baby, yeah.

  23. megan says:

    I’ve actually been surprised by T-mobile’s great phone customer service. The minute they see that my husband and I have been a customer for many years, they go out of their way to help us with anything we need.

    Store customer service? There are never enough people there to help and most don’t have a clue has to help you with anything except buying a phone.

  24. Tzepish says:

    This actually doesn’t surprise me. Having been a t-mobile customer for about 7 years, I’d characterize their customer service as “barely adequate”, which should easily clench the top-spot.

  25. CappyCobra says:

    I had T-mobile when they were omnipoint/voicestream and their customer service was good. Went it went T-mobile, it was downhill. That was back like 10 years ago almost.

    ATT Wireless was mediocre at best. The rep sold my GF and I a plan that apparently didnt exist. When ATT merged with Cingular, I broke up with the GF and got Cingular instead. Service wise it was great. Customer service was a joke (phone-wise).

    When Cingular became ATT again, they went downhill more. They basically did nothing to keep me as a customer even though I bought the phone outright for $400. I was shopping carriers and Sprint had by far the best deal. ATT would only match the ‘deal’ they were offering new customers. The rep basically told me I SHOULD join Sprint and try them out!

    Tried Sprint out and haven’t looked back. Thier plans, phones and CS were barnone. Love my HTC Touch Pro with my utilimited date, mobile, gps for cheaper than I was paying att without the data plan. Good riddance ATT

  26. Boberto says:

    I love tmobile. It works great on my iPhone.
    Customer service has always been stellar. Just wish they had better pricing on family/shared minutes.

    I think that people paying ATTs outragous rates are getting screwed.
    This is going to bite them in the ass when the iPhone exclusivity ends.