Finding the best cell phone service providers
Which one really has the most bars in the most places?
by Francine Gobert
photography by Seanette Garcia
They keep you connected in the best of times and the worst, you trust in them and would be lost without the services they provide. What is this great invention? It is none other than the cell phone. The providers of these lovely devices offer important services to their customers. But are they offering the best service for your lifestyle and wallet?
All cell phone service providers offer unique and different services to their customers. In recent surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates and the Consumer Reports National Research Center, T-Mobile and Verizon ranked as the most reliable service providers.
J.D. Power and Associates surveyed more than 22,000 users for its 2007 U.S. Wireless Contract Regional Customer Satisfaction Index study. In this survey, these carriers, along with others, were rated in the following areas: call quality, brand image, cost of service, service plan options, billing and customer service.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center also conducted its Annual Survey of Cell-Phone Service, which included more than 47,000 customers in 20 major metropolitan areas across the country.
T-Mobile and Verizon ranked highest in both of these studies in the areas of overall customer service, cost and billing, call quality and brand image. Taking a closer look at exactly why these providers stood out among the rest may cause you to take a second look at your own provider. And if you are looking for a new provider, this may be the perfect review to help you find the right one.
Overall Customer Satisfaction: T-Mobile
In a recent BusinessWeek article, T-Mobile was ranked in the top 25 of customer service champs. T-Mobile swept J.D. Power and Associates Regional Wireless Customer Satisfaction survey for the fifth time in a row, and is the only wireless carrier to rank highest in all regions. The study covered online, telephone and in-store support. The most notable points were won for a having a short hold time: an average 2.27 minutes, thus making them 34 percent below the industry average.
“T-Mobile is best in customer service. They are usually very pleasant on the phone. And they usually ask you how you’re doing five or more times,” says Jesse Sherer, owner of La Verne Wireless.
However, Katie Coleman, a resident of Covina and a new T-Mobile customer, says that although they are extremely nice over the phone, they were not as helpful as she would have expected.
“I did have to call customer service once, and the women I spoke with was nice, but she didn’t seem to know what I was talking about,” Coleman says.
On the other hand, Sherer recalls a situation in which T-Mobile went above and beyond for a customer. He recalls a time when a customer in San Dimas Canyon was in an emergency situation and needed to call out. When no one else was available, she was able to get through to T-Mobile right away, and credits the company with saving her husband’s life.
T-Mobile believes that all consumers should choose the wireless service that best suits their needs. They want their customers, and all wireless service users, to get the most out of their wireless service. The T-Mobile Web site has posted commentary from their president and CEO, Robert Dotson, in regards to their customer service awards.
“Our employees are totally dedicated to helping customers stay connected to the important people in their lives. It’s this day-to-day focus that enables our people to provide the high level of service and superior call quality customers have come to rely on from T-Mobile,” Dotson says.
T-Mobile not only offers outstanding customer service, they also provide some of the most reasonable service plans. T-Mobile offers individual and family plans starting from as low as $29.99 up to $59.99, compared with other providers that give you fewer minutes for your money. For example, the plan starting at $29.99 gives you 300 minutes, including additional free features. These include free roaming, free long distance, voicemail, text messaging, caller ID and free access in T-Mobile HotSpots. T-Mobile’s HotSpots include free service at home, free unlimited calls through your wireless Internet network and all designated HotSpots. Some T-Mobile HotSpots close to La Verne include T-Mobile stores, Starbucks, Borders bookstores, FedEx Kinko’s and hotels.
“The company I work for received a great deal from T-Mobile, and everyone in the company has their service,” Coleman says.
Mike Pham, a salesperson for the T-Mobile store in Pomona, reports that out of every cell phone provider he has every worked with, T-Mobile has worked out the best.
“We have had no complaints about customer service or call quality in this area,” Pham says.
Call Quality and Brand Image: Verizon
Claiming to have the most reliable network, Verizon Wireless has been ranked by customers and experts as offering the best call quality and brand image. The company’s most reliable wireless network claim is based on network studies performed by real-life testers. These are the people who inspired the company’s advertising campaign. They conduct more than 750,000 voice call attempts and 1.4 million data tests quarterly on Verizon Wireless and other national carriers.
Sherer, who works primarily with Verizon Wireless out of his store, says that he can definitely agree with the fact that Verizon has the best quality.
“They have great reception in this area because of the tower coverage in Southern California, particularly in La Verne,” Sherer says.
According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center’s Annual Survey of Cell-Phone Service, Verizon scored better than other wireless providers. Verizon customers have fewer dropped calls and other dysfunctions than any other carrier. Verizon Wireless’ Web site provides customers with some insight into why they have won the title of best call quality.
“Our reputation as the most reliable wireless provider is a result of our continued investment of billions of dollars into our network and our unwavering commitment to turn this investment into quality service improvements for our customers,” says Dick Lynch, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Verizon Wireless.
Coleman who recently switched from Verizon to T-Mobile due to her company, Bio-Friendly, paying for the service, found that when she had Verizon she received better call quality.
“At Verizon, reception was better in every place; the only time I received dropped calls were in typical dead spots that most people wouldn’t get reception in,” Coleman says.
“About 90 percent of my customers are with Verizon, and experience excellent call quality,” Sherer says.
The company maintains rigorous testing procedures that test for factors that affect network reliability. These tests include wireless customers’ ability to make and receive calls. Lynch says that Verizon is committed to the process of monitoring and improving their network. They have invested over $30 billion in the last six years to increase the coverage and capacity of their national network.
Verizon also offers reasonably priced plans and services to their customers. Their plans range from $39.99, which offers 450 anytime minutes, to $139.99, which includes unlimited minutes. These plans include individual, family and pre-paid plans. Some of the features include unlimited text, video and instant messaging. Verizon also has opened its network so that customers can keep the same mobile number and compatible phones from other networks when they transition over to their services.
“Verizon does have better reception, but their prices are higher,” Pham says.
“I would agree that Verizon had better service and not as many dropped calls as I have experienced with T-Mobile since I’ve switched,” Coleman says.
Both T-Mobile and Verizon offer new options, plans and services that save customers time and money. And even with the great services they offer, these carriers may not be the right fit for you. Choosing a wireless provider can be a difficult task when looking at factors such as cost, quality and reliability. Conducting your own research and knowing what will fit you best will ultimately lead to you choosing the best service provider.