Salesforce customer, T-Mobile EVP Mike Katz, wrote this article.

As the pandemic hit the United States, many businesses – including T-Mobile – were faced with making swift decisions. By being grounded in a strong set of principles, we were able to act fast. For us, that decision meant helping our employees, customers, and communities adapt to a new reality at a time when staying connected is more critical than ever.


Empowering employees to empower their customers

For as long as I’ve worked at T-Mobile, we’ve been obsessed with the customer experience. And, when you’re obsessed with the experience you give customers, it means you’re also obsessed with the frontline employees that take care of those customers. I know the value of this firsthand. Right out of college, I worked on the frontlines selling wireless services in my local Circuit City, before joining T-Mobile as an entry-level sales rep helping launch distribution networks.

As the need to stay home became apparent, our priority was to ensure all our employees took steps to stay safe. We equipped them with the tools and training necessary to quickly shift to a modified work environment. A shift like this presents challenges, but it also presents an opportunity for innovation.

What makes T-Mobile special is our personal connection to our customers. We think a lot about how to get closer to customers, and we rely on our teams, stores, call centers, and culture to help foster that relationship. But the pandemic has pushed us to reimagine the use of technology to both maintain and evolve those connections. For the first time, T-Mobile customer care centers went from 100% physical workplaces to almost all virtual. Our sales teams, accustomed to being face-to-face with their customers, are now spending a lot more time at home, planning for how they can be most effective while maintaining strong connections with customers.

Our representatives rely on Sales Cloud to help with our customer relationships. They can use it to outline their day, determine who they are talking to next, and review the current status of customer conversations — a crucial component to being there for customers in a time of crisis.

What continues to impress me is that in many cases, we have improved productivity. Digital empowerment across our employee workforce has united groups of people that may not have worked together in a strictly physical world, and it has enabled collaboration to help us better support our customers. We’ve even seen satisfaction rates increase in some cases. For us, it has been clear facilitating innovation, care, and compassion for our employees makes it possible for them to do the same with our customers.


Shaping a better future together

Customers and employees are not the only priority for us. Our communities have unique communications needs, too. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, demand for connectivity from schools and school districts in big cities and rural areas across the U.S. skyrocketed almost overnight.

We took up the charge to help thousands of schools and school districts ensure students who did not have internet access and would be at a disadvantage for at-home virtual schooling were connected with broadband at home through our mobile network. In a school district in New York that accounts for one million children, 300,000 students didn't have internet at home at the time schools moved to virtual classrooms. T-Mobile worked with the school district to provide solutions for these kids. It’s been challenging and tiring, but it’s mostly been rewarding and amazing to witness.

And, we won’t stop now. We continue to help prepare educators and students alike for whatever the new normal classroom might be moving forward. Our ability to support education and other initiatives will grow thanks to the capabilities of our network and continued efforts to deploy 5G. We vow to keep making a difference.

Speaking of making a difference, T-Mobile is proud to support a critical group of people who do a lot for our communities: first responders. We are providing free unlimited smartphone service to every state and local nonprofit first responder agency across the nation. Since the launch of Connecting Heroes in May, we’ve seen an incredible amount of responses come through various channels, including our website, by phone, and in retail stores. We rely on Salesforce to help us organize these inquiries and ensure we follow up with each and every one of them. Our first responders are the first ones contacted when there's a problem — we don't want to keep them waiting to get connectivity. We’re committed to connecting the men and women who are first on the scene every single day.


Building at the intersection of physical and digital

Beyond the immediate needs of our employees, customers, and communities, T-Mobile also thinks about how we move forward and continue to be nimble as COVID-19 evolves. It’s fair to say that we’re likely never going back to the way things were before this pandemic, so now is the time to wholeheartedly embrace change.

For us, this means embracing new ways of doing business. For years, we’ve relied on retail stores for a good portion of our leads, but due to reduced foot traffic throughout the pandemic, retail leads have decreased. At the same time, we’ve seen a corresponding increase in inbound leads from digital assets. Using our customer relationship management (CRM) platform, we are able to track where leads originate and determine how to double-down on digital resources that provide the most value to current or potential customers. With the possibility of reduced retail foot traffic over the next year, it’s important we make our capabilities and services available online and as accessible as possible.

There’s also a certain level of physical interaction in the telecom industry that probably won’t ever go away. We will need to meet with customers on site and in-person for large-scale service deployments. Consumers still want to touch and feel a new phone before buying, or they may want in-person reassurance there are no issues when switching service providers. We’ve found that a mix of in-person and virtual customer interaction is necessary.

However, a lot can be done before an in-person customer interaction. We can handle most credit checks and billing over the phone; we can prepare equipment in a centralized location and ship it to our enterprise customers before arriving on site to set up service; and maybe in the future, with 5G and low-latency service, augmented reality and virtual reality could facilitate in-store visits without actually being in a retail storefront. We are building and embracing digital experiences to complement the physical ones and we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.


Connection for the nation

In my 20+ years at T-Mobile, I can’t recall another time when a worldwide issue completely shifted the reality we once took for granted. T-Mobile’s values and commitment to our customers, our employees, and our communities have made it easy to make decisions that transcend the new normal. There’s more to come and more people to help, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. T-Mobile is bringing people together at a time when communication is more important than ever.

Watch the full interview with Mike Katz: