Why T-Mobile’s CEO Eavesdrops on Customer Service Calls

He refers to competitors AT&T and Verizon as "dumb and dumber."

January 12, 2017, 12:26 PM

— -- If you’ve ever had to call that 1-800 hotline number for customer service, you may have experienced something similar to the following: an automated voice listing extension after extension for various service options (“For new orders, press one. For returning customers, press two…”).

Jazz music plays in the background as you patiently hold for a human representative that might actually be able to answer your question. Sound frustratingly familiar? You’re not alone.

But what if you knew that once you connected with, let’s say, a T-Mobile customer service rep, the company CEO maybe be secretly listening in on your call?

That is exactly what John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, says he did when he first took over the helm at the wireless carrier in 2012.

During an interview at CES with ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis, Legere divulged his strategy to make sure his employees and customers are communicating effectively, and with the correct data.

“I would dial into an observation where I could hear both sides of customer service callers. And I would get a bottle of wine and I would sit for hours, and I would hear everything that went on,” Legere said. “I learned everything I needed to know. I still do it now, and it’s fantastic.”

Legere went on to explain that he would then compare the calls with data he received as CEO from internal staff meetings, and if there were any discrepancies with information, he would know there was a problem.

“We have tremendous amounts of data. But if that call doesn’t have the same kind of gist of the data, it’s wrong," he said.

The infamous “un-carrier” CEO has become well-known for his unconventional, creative approach. His constant social media presence helps make him accessible to his customers (and critics) and he is a self-proclaimed "Batman," who refers to competitors AT&T and Verizon as "dumb and dumber." He even hosts a live weekly cooking show from his personal Facebook page.

“Now, I probably spend more time than anybody would think is appropriate for a CEO on social,” Legere said. “[But] it’s not a game. I’m learning everything I need to know from my customers, employees.”

Eccentric, maybe – but apparently effective, too.

Since Legere signed on with the company over four years ago, T-Mobile US has transformed from a low-level mobile carrier to an industry disrupter. Legere has transformed in the process as well: growing out his crew cut and trading his suits for T-Mobile-branded magenta Converse All-Stars and leather jackets.

Prior to joining T-Mobile, Legere was CEO of Global Crossing Limited and a 20-year employee at AT&T.

For more quirky insights from John Legere, watch his interview on ‘Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis’, and follow @RebeccaJarvis on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more live interviews like this one.

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