Published Jun 8, 2005

Somehow, despite Cingular’s best efforts, I have a Treo 650. It amazes me that it wasn’t easy for me to give them my money, but my plan was from the wrong region (PAC - California) and the Arizona salespeople couldn’t access my account to either give me an upgrade or switch me to a national, roaming-free plan. So, once you’re in a Cingular store, how do you switch your region, switch your plan, and walk out with a new phone, at the two year contract discount price? Well, that’s what this blog entry is for.

First, a little background. Cingular offers two kinds of plans:

  • Regional plans, which give you a local number, charge you less overall, but charge you for roaming. If you got your plan more than a year or so ago, you probably have a regional plan.
  • National plans, which don’t charge for roaming but offer fewer minutes at the same price.

Now, if you’re on a Regional plan, you can only deal with your regional support staff, and you are locked into that region. Cingular’s salesepeople will tell you that you can’t leave your Region without giving up your cell phone number, and goodness knows that I wasn’t going to give up a number that I’d had for seven years.

The problem is that staff in one Region can’t touch any kind of record from any other Region. You need to find someone who can; that person is in the Relocation Department, 800.826.7356. They can do two things for you:

  1. Get you on a national plan, so that you don’t pay roaming
  2. Enter you into the system so that you can get the rebate on your phone to get it down to the price you’d otherwise pay with a contract

That phone? You have to buy it at full price. It’s an awful deal, really, more expensive even than an unlocked phone direct from Palm. But the rebates make it a good price in the end.

Obviously, this is a preposterous set of acts to have to go through to get a good phone and a good plan. I’ve been a Cingular customer for seven years and, frankly, they should make it easy for me to stay. In this case, they actually make it harder for me to stay than to leave. If I hadn’t been persistent, I would have either:

  • Been unable to change my plan or get a new phone
  • Been forced to get a new phone number but still not gotten a new plan

Because I’m new in town, I didn’t know where the closest T-Mobile store was. That is the only reason that I did not leave Cingular. In fact, it would have been easier to leave; because of phone number portability, I could have switched to another carrier, with any plan I wanted, with only a few minutes of negotiating and waiting for my account to be activated. Now that’s a problem for Cingular — not that other carriers are necessarialy better, but I only know about Cingular.

There’s some business lesson in here, but, frankly, it’s almost too obvious to be worth writing about. Have your administrative structures; don’t make your customers care about them. Set up your company to take your customers’ money. If a customer wants to stay a customer and give you their money, don’t fight them on it. All that good, obvious stuff.