3 Lessons Customer Service Teams Can Learn from T-Mobile’s Team of Experts Model

April 13, 2021

When companies want to scale up their customer service operations quickly, they may add more outsourced generalists to their team, but that can be a tactical mistake. While it may seem like an effective way to keep costs lower, having a collaborative team of well-trained specialist agents instead can actually resolve issues faster, avoid escalations and improve net promoter scores (NPS).

T-Mobile recognized the value of this model. Their “Team of Experts” are trained to handle various service and technology issues. But it’s not just a matter of throwing more people into a call center; this Team of Experts model considers the customer service representatives’ happiness and success as critical elements of customer satisfaction.

For companies that want to take their customer service to the next level, here are three lessons customer service teams can learn from T-Mobile’s Team of Experts model.

1. Create collaborative teams

The T-Mobile Team of Experts isn’t just one big room full of representatives answering calls. T-Mobile divides these employees into teams consisting of one team leader, one customer resolution expert, eight technology specialists, four coaches, one resource manager, and 32 customer service representatives. Each team holds stand-up meetings to discuss best practices and how to handle recurring customer issues. The company leverages instant messaging so that representatives can share advice throughout customer interactions.

For employees, this collaborative model means that employees can learn from each other. New customer service representatives aren’t left to sink or swim; they know who they can turn to with questions about a particularly thorny issue or who should help a customer with a complex technical issue. Even more experienced representatives can get advice or just alert the rest of their team to what may be a trending issue, like a service outage. The end result is a faster resolution of customer issues – and more satisfied and successful employees.

2. Leverage highly trained experts

T-Mobile’s Team of Experts aren’t just divided into collaborative teams; they’re also highly trained on a wide range of topics, and often lean on specialists as a part of the team for technical requests. For example, they may tap in a local retail store or engineer for a complex problem.

Other companies can take a page from its playbook and assign teams or groups of representatives to specific product lines. This approach helps customer service representatives become familiar with technical nuances of the product, and handle a wider variety of requests. For example, if a representative from an electronics company is trained specifically to handle requests about computer monitors, a customer request is likely to be handled a lot faster than with a generalist agent.

Companies with a global presence may be tempted to hire customer service representatives based on the languages they speak; however, a language operations solution can remove the language barrier and allow representatives to focus on developing their expertise in a specific product line or industry vertical. 

3. Provide team autonomy and accountability

T-Mobile has structured its Teams of Experts almost like their own independent business units. Team leads function like CEOs, checking the profit and loss statements for their teams, noting if they’re reducing the time it takes to resolve customer issues. Not only does this create a career path for customer service representatives, but it also helps team leads coach representatives on how to handle customer issues. This helps to develop skill sets and encourages teams to devise creative solutions to customer or company problems, something that’s difficult to do if representatives are spread across the organization.

For example, when T-Mobile introduced its ONE Military discount plan for members of the armed forces and their families, this decision could have meant that certain teams would potentially miss their revenue goals. Instead, the Team of Experts teams in heavily populated military communities were able to come up with a solution to balance customer discounts with potential revenue loss. Not only were they able to move customers to the new plan and increase average new-line sales, but they also improved their NPS.

By creating collaborative teams, leveraging their expertise, and allowing for autonomy and accountability within those teams, T-Mobile increased both its NPS and employee retention rate. It cut service costs by 13 percent – and reduced absenteeism and attrition rates by 50 percent in three years. The Team of Experts model may seem costly up-front, but if T-Mobile is any example, it’s a model that continues to improve the organization, internally and externally.

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