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An update from the frontlines.

We haven’t been ourselves lately. There’s still a bit of a road ahead but right now, things are at least starting to get back to normal.

Sprint’s financial eligibility date (FED) check put a serious crimp in the bring your own device to Ting program and pushed a lot of people to call us to find out what was going on. We pushed the Ting on a GSM network beta release up a little in order to offer some different options. The end result was us breaking our promise of no hold customer service.

Marketing went into stealth mode while we sorted things out. We stopped most of the things we do to try to get new customers and instead jumped into the ticket and email queue to lend a hand there.

The ship has been righted and it’s just about anchors aweigh. In keeping with the nautical theme, it will soon be steady as she goes.

Financial Eligibility Date check

In short: If you tried to bring a device to Ting and failed due to the Sprint’s financial eligibility date (FED) rules enacted in mid February, please try again.

On February 15, Sprint changed the rules for devices it will allow to access its network via MVNOs like Ting. The system that was initially implemented was … imperfect.

In short, the financial eligibility date (FED) is the date when a device purchased under contract with Sprint is allowed to make the move to another carrier. Basically, the day the device is free of any financial obligation to Sprint.

When FED first hit, around 70% of devices that tried to come to Ting were being blocked by Sprint and only 30% made it past the gatekeeper. FED was casting too wide a net and catching devices it shouldn’t. Nexus and iPhone devices purchased directly from Google or Apple without any kind of carrier subsidy, for example.

We’ve been working closely with Sprint to narrow FED’s focus and now, the numbers are reversed. 70% of devices that people attempt to activate on Ting pass FED check and 30% fail.

To be clear, we’ve never expected something for nothing. We don’t think someone should be able to buy a Sprint, Boost or other device at 1/3 the cost and then activate it elsewhere. In that case, it’s only reasonable for Sprint to attempt to recoup money it paid into subsidies. Our issue with FED was that it was a hammer where a scalpel was the right tool. Now, with feedback and Sprint’s efforts to improve the tool, it’s more of a butterknife.

We’ll continue to work with Sprint to fine-tune the FED check. We expect the 70% success rate to continue to grow, but we expect that growth will be incremental as opposed to exponential. We also have a much better understanding of how FED works now, so we’re better able to communicate before people make a purchasing decision.

Ting on a GSM network

In short: Ting on a GSM network is ready for prime-time. The only thing we’re really missing, at this point, are the streamers for the launch party. If you’ve been waiting to activate a GSM device until Ting on a GSM network was fully supported, you need wait no longer.

International long distance now works. Up to this point, that was the biggest thing holding us up from removing the “beta” tag. We still want to do more and better things around devices. Chief on the list is making it easier to check compatibility and offering clearer answers and direction when doing so. The work we’re doing on this front will also make it a lot easier to bring a GSM device over to Ting via the BYOD program. So, we are still working on Ting on a GSM network, but then the same can be said for everything we do.

The beta label will be pulled off Ting on a GSM network soon. Ting on a GSM network is now ready for primetime.

Customer service

In short: We broke our promise of no hold customer service. If you called us and didn’t get a real person on the line right away, we’re sorry. We take our customer service promises very seriously. We are on the road to recovery.

We mentioned that 70% of devices that were run through the Ting compatibility checker were being (often improperly) blocked from coming to Ting by Sprint’s FED check. That made for a lot of confused people calling in for answers. The problem compounded because when it came to FED, we didn’t have any answers to offer.

Call volumes spiked to a level higher than we predicted in even our most dire of predictions as a result. Add to that the launch of Ting on a GSM network into open beta (in large part, an attempt to stop people getting rejected by FED from being left in the lurch) and the customer experience team was overrun.

We don’t like to work with people on a temporary basis, though on the surface, it would seem like the right approach. Rather than calling on a temp agency to get a bunch of “warm bodies” to put on the phones and on help tickets, we staffed-up in a more Ting-like way. We reached out to our own networks of close friends and family members with the opportunity. That was the only way we’d feel confident that people reaching would get the type of service they should expect.

This was a temporary measure to tide us over while we brought in more permanent team members to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, which we’re in the process of doing. Some of the short-term team members (that’s an HR-approved way of saying temps) have shown the overriding eagerness to help people that typifies someone who’s successful on the customer experience team and will be sticking around long-term.

While we’re always happy to have people call us, we also want to make it easy to find answers to questions without having to. The team has been hard at work reorganizing the Ting help center to make it easier to find that which you seek. It’s a full ground-up redesign which Documentation Specialist Isabel Matwawana will detail in full later this week right here on the Ting blog.

In conclusion…

Treating people the way we’d want to be treated is at the core of everything we do here. We were caught unprepared by a deluge of calls, emails and chats. We broke our promise of no hold, no transfer customer support.

With that said, we take pride in the fact that we didn’t compromise on the ideal. Instead, we slowed down to fix the issues that lead to this broken promise and to mitigate the risk of it happening again. We stopped any initiatives to get new people in the door until we’re sure we’re meeting this promise once more.

Very soon, we’ll be in a position to start turning the tap back on full blast, inviting and welcoming new people to Ting. We’re looking forward to looking forward.

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