My local newspaper, the Kölner Stadt Anzeiger has a couple of interesting articles and an editorial – Streit um Telekom eskaliert, Service-Offensive im Millimeterschritt and Verfahrene Situation (German language) – about T-Mobile’s disagreement with the customer service workers’ union Verdi.
T-Mobile is in deep trouble. It needs to cut $1Bn of costs annually to stay competitive. It also needs to improve customer service to reduce customer defections. Its customer service was berated in a recent Kundenmonitor Deutschland 2006 study. Undeterred by its poor showing, T-Mobile wants to become one of the ‘best service organisations’ in Germany by the beginning of next year.
The solution T-Mobile management is proposing to achieve both aims is to move 50,000 service staff to a ‘holding company’ which will guarantee their jobs until 2010. The quid pro quo is that staff will have to take a pay cut of 12.5% and work longer hours. The apparent logic of René Obermann, the recently installed CEO goes along the lines: T-Mobile’s customer service is uncompetitive. It pays too high wages for too few hours worked compared to other service organisations. Ergo, for T-Mobile to become competititive in its service, it must reduce wages and increase hours worked. This is only possible by outsourcing service staff to a holding company!
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And this is supposed to motivate staff to go the extra mile for customers?
Staff have already signalled their resistance when 30,000 took part in a recent warning strike.
T-Mobile does have to take some tough decisions, but it strikes me that this logic is fatally flawed. T-Mobile as the ex-incumbent still carries many of the inefficiencies it inherited from its protected government ownership days. But expecting hard-pressed service staff to increase their motivation under such conditions is simply untenable. Obermann may be able to force through the changes as he threatens, but customer service will likely take a huge knock as a result. As a T-Mobile customer with a number of service disasters behind me, it looks like I can look forward to even less service in the future.
What do you think? Is T-Mobile thinking wishfully? Or should staff just bite the bullet and accept the inevitable?
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