Magenta for Me, How About You?

Tmobile_clueless

Mobile phone service is excellent in China. In fact, every visit back to the US, I would count my blessings that I did not have a phone here. I usually found it challenging to hear the person on the other end of the call, not to mention wonder why there would be so many dead spots, even in the middle of a city. I wondered how America was so far behind the rest of the world. I was used to great mobile service coverage from the depths of the Beijing subway to the heights of the Himalayas in places like Tiger Leaping Gorge (even in 2004). Wasn’t China still in the “third world” 10 years ago?  

Having returned to the US last spring with the intention of spending a bit more quality time here, while I immensely enjoyed life without a US phone number, I ultimately had to explore contract options from the various players in the wireless carrier market.

And from the start, T-Mobile blew me away.

My first experience was in the Flatiron district of New York City. I had a day in the city, was meeting a friend in the area, and happened upon an AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon store all in close proximity to each other.

When it came to the difference in store environment and service experience, it was like night and day. AT&T and T-Mobile stores were bright and full of energy – both their physical space and their staff. And living an international life, it was hard for me to imagine signing up for a multi-year contract with a service that would not allow me to switch SIM cards.

As I was about to spend the next few months in Hawaii, I was not ready to commit to a plan, but the person I spoke to at T-Mobile was super helpful. He was happy to help me, but thought the folks in Hawaii would be in a better position. The person at AT&T was great too, though I found myself waiting in a pretty big line.

Lines aside, when it came down to it, I was uncertain how long I would need my plan for, did not need a contract and was going to get more for my money to choose T-Mobile over AT&T. Why pay an extra $10 per month just for fun?

Upon arrival in Hawaii, several folks in my cohort were interested in phone plans and I shared my recent learnings with them. A group of us embarked on an adventure to find the closest T-Mobile store to campus.

Shopping for a cell phone plan with my new international friends, I was having much more fun with this than I ever would have imagined. While they thought it was helpful to have an American with them to navigate the scene, I wondered if I was really that useful. Sure, thanks to all the aggressive advertising done by these companies (especially during football games during winter holidays), I could never have forgotten who the general players were in this mobile carrier space. But at the same time, I felt like a foreigner as much as they did.

My first big thanks goes to Brinton from the T-Mobile shop in Honolulu where we signed up for our family plan. While the basics of the T-Mobile service are pretty much a no-brainer, he was an enormous help and took the time needed to answer all of our questions (which extended a good deal past the store’s 8PM closing time).

Last month when our family was set to head in a variety of directions and ready to break-up, I spoke with a couple folks on the phone, and another super knowledgeable sales rep at the same Honolulu retail store.

Back in Upstate NY for the holidays, and hearing about the cell phone bills my mom and sister were racking up on their own individual plans, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my super experiences with T-Mobile. Maybe we could take our actual family status and update to a family plan with the same wireless carrier?

My mom has had the same phone for a handful of years. We thought that meant it would be easy to switch as she was already out of contract. Turns out these days T-Mobile Offers to Pay Everyone Else’s Termination Fees. The big question was whether her phone (see photos below) would be usable on the T-Mobile network or if she would need to upgrade to a smarter phone.

The experience we had with Bobby at the 18 Wolf Road T-Mobile store was so good that I felt compelled to share my customer experience over the past five months. Bobby is super knowledgeable in all things T-Mobile, direct, and has a great sense of humor. He was not only extremely helpful , but we had a great time while in the store. And aside from the great deal on family plans, it turns out small business customers get some pretty stellar service – a few bells and whistles beyond all the uncarrier perks that normal folks and family-planners enjoy.

And just around 6PM, as we were just about to wrap up, Bobby shared with us, hot off the press, the new break-up deals that have taken over the interwebs these past couple days. Pretty unbelievable. While my sister is already a T-Mobile customer, looks like some strong incentives for my Dad to say goodbye to Verizon.

Back in Honolulu, I walked out of the store back in August thinking T-Mobile was leading a mobile wireless revolution. I thought it unbelievable to learn last month you could text, for free, from 100 countries back to the US, which came online just two months after I had signed-up. Now it looks like something mind-bending is happening every three months. I wonder how long this can last?

Over the past day or so, it’s been interesting to explore the past couple years in T-Mobile history and how big magenta has started to create the disruption it has over the past year plus. I’ve enjoyed the evolving story as told by Sascha Segan from PCMag. Most of the articles below are his.

T-Mobile Offers to Pay Everyone Else’s Termination Fees (1/8/14)

Exclusive: T-Mobile CTO Talks Carrier’s Journey to Fastest LTE Network (1/6/14)

6 Reasons Sprint Shouldn’t Buy T-Mobile (12/13/13)

T-Mobile Cuts the Bulls**t, But Can it Win Customers? (3/27/13)   

T-Mobile Names Former Global Crossing Chief as New CEO (9/19/12)

T-Mobile CEO John Legere‘s Twitter feed is also worth a gander.

At this point, T-Mobile has very clearly stated their vision for the future of their industry and “the other guys” are almost making it hard for people to not switch. Also, the “Break Up Letter” campaign is more than a little funny.

Tmobile_breakupletter

And I’ll close with an interesting post by a guy named Louis Grey that I stumbled upon yesterday. At the time of writing in November of last year, it appeared that the question he put forth, “Are the Big Phone Carriers ‘Good Enough’ These Days” was logical enough. I wonder what an update of that article looks like in a week or two? How about November 2014?

Table Games and Change

tables games in class

I arrived to class a bit early this morning with our teacher, Scott. He takes a look at the room, feels like the tables are a bit out of place, and we start to move them.

Not quite sure what to do with the last table, we start to explore a slightly more radical change in configuration that influenced some of the other tables. As my classmates started to roll in, I was surprised at the responses.

Let me back up for a moment. For the last three-odd weeks we have been used to sitting in clusters of 6-7 people. Imagine each unit: two tables side by side, the length at least twice the size of the width, where 8 people would sit comfortably if each place at the table was taken. This configuration creates a nice little half-circle for conversation, yet still allows us to comfortably take in the powerpoint presentation during class.

Back to the scene:

“What are you doing?!” appeared to be the most popular response.

For those who did not join in the table moving, there seemed to be more than an inkling of an aversion to change. And for some who did, there was a desire not to be associated with the outcome. “I have no idea what’s going on, this is MCK’s idea.”

And the interesting reality for me, is that I wasn’t even the leader of the movement. I was just the first follower. Within minutes of starting, I was already starting to be labeled as disrupting our peaceful classroom seating chart.

Why was there such a reaction to a few tables situated differently for a lecture that would not last the rest of the morning?

A number of thoughts ran through my mind during and post event, but my major takeaway from this impromptu exercise was the realization that despite being in a program about leadership, where change is not an insignificant topic of discussion, even a group like ours can be averse to the smallest of aberration to the norm.

What does this say about the general landscape for change?