Small businesses generally don't get customized service from large wireless providers. It's simply not profitable. T-Mobile, however, says it's going to change that. On March 22, when T-Mobile's latest wireless plans for businesses go live, all of its business customers will get their own support team.
"Companies don't want to spend a lot of time talking to their carrier," says Michael Katz, T-Mobile's vice president of marketing. When they have to contact support, those business customers want the process to be as painless and efficient as possible, according to Katz.
Starting on March 22, T-Mobile business customers will be able to get help by calling 611 or a dedicated 800 number. Those customers will be connected to support technicians who have been assigned to work with their organizations and not the same random techs consumers might reach if they call T-Mobile support.
That's how it's designed work, but of course it's still unclear exactly how well it will really function. T-Mobile is largely perceived in the marketplace as a consumer-oriented carrier, but Katz says that's not the case. Running call centers that already service large customers -- including United Airlines, 3M, and SAP America -- is part of the company's core competency, Katz says. The latest announcement is meant to beef up its support staff.
Other carriers also offer support tools and a variety of plans tailored for business, including Verizon Wireless. "Our small business customers have access to the online account management tool called MyBiz, similar to our consumer tool called MyVerizon," says Verizon spokesman David Samberg.
Samberg says that businesses with 50 or more lines get an assigned B2B support representative. Companies with fewer than 50 lines typically go to Verizon stores for tech support, according to Samberg. (You can see the details of Verizon's business offerings here.)
AT&T spokesman Mark Sigel points to his company's high customer satisfaction rating in a J.D. Power study, and says "AT&T offers complete solutions for business beyond wireless needs like high-speed Internet, security services, VPN, Mobile Device Management and unified communications."
T-Mobile offers business plans for companies with 1,000 or more seats, Katz says, but its focus is on organizations with somewhere between 20 and 500 employees. The carrier offers tiers of service based on the number of devices and the amount of data allocated.
In a video, T-Mobile likened the process of ordering business phone service to that of buying a car, with a salesperson constantly running back and forth to the sometimes mythical supervisor for approval. T-Mobile doesn't bargain, according to its CEO John Legere, who spoke at a press conference in New York on Wednesday. "Our best price is our only price."
T-Mobile offers flat calling rates for business: $16 a line for 10 to 19 lines; $15 for 20 to 1,000 lines; and $10 a line for more than 1,000 accounts.
Its data offerings are a bit more complicated. Each line comes with 1GB of high-speed data, and customers get an additional 2GB for $10 more. Unlimited data costs $30 per line. Rather than offer "buckets" of shared data, T-Mobile will offer a "pool."
The difference between the two is more than just semantics. Typically, if a business or consumer customer shares 20GB of data across two or more devices, they pay a flat rate -- but if the customer exceeds the allocation, they're hit with a fairly stiff overage fee. Under T-Mobile's plan, business customers who agree to pay for 100GB of data across devices are billed $475 per month, or $4.75 a GB. If they use all of that data, the customer still pays $4.75 for each additional GB -- there is no penalty or overage fee. If a customer agrees to pay for 500 GB a month, the charge per GB drops to $4.50, and the cost decreases by another 25 cents per GB, to $4.25, if the customer purchases a TB of data per month.
T-Mobile is also offering a free domain and website hosting through GoDaddy, as well as custom .com e-mail addresses powered by Microsoft Office 365 for businesses that pay for additional data.
T-Mobile made a lot of promises this week. If it keeps them, others carriers will likely follow suit and the business market will become more competitive.