“I have never, ever been treated like I was treated at T-Mobile”

10. Dezember 2012: Julia Crouse is a 41-year-old former customer service representative at the Chattanooga, Tennessee, call center. She worked at T-Mobile USA from August 2007 to March 2012. In part 1 of Julia’s story, she described how she loved customer service work but T-Mobile managers used public humiliation to motivate her to perform at higher levels.

She also recounted how she was forced to beg for her job through the “decision time” process, because she was unable to meet her scores. After that incident, T-Mobile already unrealistic metrics changed yet again.

“A new manager changed how employees were measured. All of a sudden, they didn’t care about scores anymore. They didn’t care about “average handle time” (editor’s note: average amount of time spent with a customer). They didn’t care about “Voice of the Customer” (editor’s note: customer evaluations) anymore. All they cared about was how much you’re selling. We were selling everything. We were pushing data. If you didn’t offer data on every single call, you would get written up. And it didn’t matter the situation of the call. You had to try to sell. It could be somebody who disconnected.”

The imperative to sell put such a strain on workers that some started to develop risky shortcuts and dubious sales practices.
“Ultimately, it led to representatives abusing things so that they could meet their sales. People were adding features that the customer never asked for. So there were customers calling in – ‘I got this $30 data package. I don’t know why it’s here’ – and they had a flip phone. That $30 data package is not for this flip phone at all because the phone doesn’t even have the capability of using it!

“T-Mobile’s policy is if a customer had it for three months, then he or she should have noticed it and taken it off. If they didn’t notice it, well, we’ll give them a credit up to three months, but after that, they have to pay for it – whether they asked for that feature or not. And it’s very easy to see that an 80-year old woman did not ask for a data package. But you have to make her pay because she didn’t notice it on her bill.”

Julia explains why it became harder and harder for workers to be honest and not cheat customers: “You were penalized for being honest: every data package that you removed counted against you. Customers would call in and they’d want to remove the package. And they may have to call in six times to get a package removed because everybody’s terrified to remove that package because it’s going to hurt their sales.

“So they’ll lie and say they took it off when they didn’t. And then I would end up getting that customer and I would end up getting hit on the fact that I’m changing it back. Now, if somebody tells me they’re taking it off, I’m going to take it off. People like me were pretty much getting punished because we were taking features off, where there were so many people that said they took it off and they didn’t. And this person would go two, three months paying for this. Pressure on sales was so bad that people would do anything to sell something – anything not to take the feature off.”

All this stress and pressure took a toll on Julia. “I left voluntarily in March, because it was affecting my health. I was having panic attacks. I would sit in my Jeep 10-15 minutes to talk to myself into going into work, convincing myself to go to work. It was that bad. I developed ticks – pulling my hair out and vomiting from the stress. Vomiting was a stress release before I went in. The job paid well. It had good insurance. It’s hard to give up a job like that.”

“I was on short-term disability twice for anxiety. I saw a doctor about this. The doctors told me to get a new job. One doctor had so many T-Mobile patients that I didn’t even have to explain. She already knew. It was a big joke in the call center as to what kind of meds each person had.”

“I just had to leave.”