When you can’t compete on quality or product, you find yourself in a difficult position. Sure, there’s always service and price, but, when you have at least one major competitor in exactly the same boat, someone is bound to make the “wrong” choice.
Ronn Torossian says that’s exactly where T-Mobile and Sprint find themselves in the American mobile carrier market. Despite notoriously poor customer service records, Verizon maintains a clear lead with regard to service spectrum and quality. AT&T runs a close second, and maintains a considerable customer loyalty advantage. For years now, T-Mobile and Sprint have been fighting for the number 3 spot, trying just about anything to gain market share.
More often than not, the battle has come down to price. Which, in the dizzying world of American mobile plans, can often be a confusing choice for the consumer. Sprint came out of the gate a few years ago with a smart, simple idea. Unlimited plans. One low price, get all you want. Clear, simple, and easy to sell. And sell it did. Then T-Mobile made a similar move, and the “choice” came down to service and quality once again.
Because customers of both carriers had legitimate complaints in these areas, the brands needed a strong go-to campaign as a backup. T-Mobile chose to tilt with Verizon over coverage, a dubious decision that led to somewhat dubious results. Then it got worse.
Back in March, BGR released a National RootScore measuring performance rankings for each major carrier. Verizon, as expected, came in at number one with an 89.7 root performance score. AT&T was a very close second with an 86.2. Sprint came in third, dropping down to 68.2, and T-Mobile came in dead last with a 64.3. When you are losing by nearly 25 points, you don’t really want to challenge the lead dog to “redraw the map.”
Sensing an advantage, Sprint recently released its $60 unlimited plan. For city dwellers who are happy with coverage limitations, they can now get Sprint for much less than other contenders. This new everything plan undercuts T-Mobile’s plan by $20 a month, a clear attempt to secure third place by pricing T-Mobile out of the market.
Because both T-Mobile and Sprint understand that unlimited data – and not price – are their biggest selling points, T-Mobile immediately fired back. They are now, reportedly, offering customers who switch “free unlimited data” for a year.
And that, says Torossian, is the danger when you tie your PR primarily to price. Someone can always undercut you.