After two years with AT&T-powered StraightTalk service, earlier this year, I decided to move from the service to MetroPCS to take full advantage of the unlimited data access on its $60 rate plan and give the service as a whole an honest chance. Now after a month and a week of service, I’m going to review the service from the beginning of the transaction to the latest payment. I hope it will bring to light some longstanding flaws in MetroPCS’ current operations that can be easily fixed, if the powers that be care enough about customer satisfaction to fix them.
Part One: Starting New Service And Purchasing A Phone
Last month on May 8th, after doing some research, I decided to go to a local MetroPCS dealer to purchase the LG L70 Android smartphone for $49.99 as a part of a currently ongoing new customer promotion.
Right off the bat, the person that handled my transaction was clearly undertrained, as she moved too quickly for me to get a word in edgewise, being overexcited to get an early morning sale. Rather than ask me which plan I wanted, she automatically activated service on the $50 plan.On top of this, she told me that the first month of service would be $56. I had assumed that I would only need to pay for the first month of service and I asked why.
She refused to elaborate on why it was $56 and simply stated that was the normal rate for activation. It wasn’t until I actually looked at the receipt for the transaction that I discovered that I was slammed with add-on services without my knowledge or consent (MetroGUARD, MetroBackup), as well as being put on the wrong plan entirely. Rather than raise an immediate fuss since there was a line of customers behind me after the purchase was done, I decided to pay the ~$100 and be on my way, as I had other errands to run.
I understand that I have some blame in the above situation for not speaking up and putting my foot down before completing the transaction, but having sold wireless for a few years before writing for this site, there’s an expectation by the customer that the sales rep is at least willing to explain things before completing the purchase and taking steps to make sure the customer understands what they’re buying.
I guess I expected way too much from this particular Metro dealer and I don’t want to paint all dealers with the same stroke, as I’ve met some outstanding Metro dealers that go above and beyond to help customers, which I experienced when I reached out to a dealer online about my particular situation. He promptly removed the services in question and dramatically lowered my second month payment as a result. He didn’t have to do that, but that he did shows his commitment to customer service in a sharp contrast to my initial purchase experience.
Part 2: Using The Phone And Early Service Impressions
After the phone was activated, I took time out to learn how to use the phone. The LG L70 isn’t a bad phone in terms of hardware, the only problem is that it is underpowered compared to the new entry-level and mid-range top performers in the Moto G and Moto E.
While it ships with KitKat, the phone only features 4GB of internal storage and after initial activation, which means that after all of the Google Apps, LG bloatware and Metro app suite are installed, the phone has less than 1GB of storage for more apps, which means I constantly have to remain vigilant over what applications I install and have to make sure I clear application caches frequently, otherwise I get sudden low memory errors.
While I like the phone, Metro would have been better off certifying the version with 8GB internal memory and the 8 megapixel camera, since KitKat won’t let apps install to the microSD card and further restricts what can be written to the card to increase security. I should also mention that on this model, there’s no way to boot into recovery mode, so that means no opening for root or even a system recovery should the phone act up outside of a battery pull or ADB connection on a desktop.
As far as the service itself is concerned, MetroPCS riding on T-Mobile’s network means that the phone gets access to its HSPA+ and LTE network. The phone is rated for HSPA21 access, but in practice, that means that I average anywhere from 1-5Mbps depending on the time of day according to multiple speedtests. While I’m not big on streaming in general when I’m outdoors, the speeds are actually closer to what I got with my old AT&T-powered Nokia E71, but the speed on T-Mobile’s network feels really inconsistent and web pages don’t load as smoothly as I initially expected.
While I’m not going to form a final opinion on network performance until I can get my hands on a phone with T-Mobile LTE access, I can’t say I’m impressed with the speed of the HSPA network so far, but I’m not sure how much of that falls on both the phone and network in my particular area and I’m more inclined to blame network congestion and priority than a brand new phone.
However, I am impressed with T-Mobile’s implementation of both HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling. I had many opportunities to take advantage of HD Voice throughout the month and call quality is indeed improved over standard circuit switched calls. Where I would have issues with the volume of incoming phone calls on the E71, both incoming and outgoing phone calls on the L70 were full of volume and clarity that would not be out of place on a VoIP service with full bandwidth, with some calls sounding as if the person was next to me in the same room.
While I didn’t have a pressing need to use Wi-Fi Calling with full network coverage indoors. having it available means that I could turn off the cellular radio and increase battery life while easing off mobile data. As with HD Voice over the HSPA network, calls made over Wi-Fi Calling also feature the same increased voice quality while also supporting messaging access.
However, I did have some initial QoS issues with bandwidth that have led me to conclude that my current wireless router has seen better days, as bandwidth would sometimes fluctuate wildly while on a call, issues that were usually solved with a reboot as well as initial issues with getting E911 service properly enabled on the account, which were eventually solved on their own.
Overall, my experience with MetroPCS in terms of the service is more than satisfactory in terms of quality and performance (recent network issues notwithstanding), however my biggest problems with MetroPCS at the moment don’t center on price or performance, but customer service quality.
Part 3: MetroPCS Needs More Work On Customer Service
For the past month, I have been unable to sign up for online account management on the MetroPCS website. Every attempt to sign up leads to the site itself spitting out arcane and obscure errors that mean very little to me and only serve to frustrate. I spent two weeks trying to figure this out before ultimately giving up out of frustration and this is what I’ve learned:
- Calling into customer service should be considered a complete last resort, as rep quality varies between the call center veteran that can have you ready to go after a few minutes, to a complete novice that reads to you directly from a script with no idea what to do otherwise when you’ve done everything they just read off the same script
- Hold times for the last month averaged between 5-20 minutes for the first two weeks of service, with better hold times experienced during the morning and early afternoon hours
- Customer service can indeed create an online account for you but the process takes so long that you’re better off blocking out a couple hours before everything gets done
- Even with customer service resetting all of the information to create an online account, the reset windows are still too short and the fixes are still prone to being ineffective due to site errors, even after following all of the steps properly
With all of the above, I figured I’d be able to rely on the myMetro app since it was obvious that registering online for account management clearly wasn’t going to be possible for whatever reason. Unfortunately, the myMetro smartphone app can be as error-prone and unreliable as the desktop site, with more customer service calls to figure out that the app needs regular data and cache clearing in order to work properly, despite receiving regular updates. I couldn’t even use it to pay for my second month of service this past week, which forced me to spend even more time go to a payment center.
For many people, the above experience would be enough to completely bail on MetroPCS and port to another service, and I did consider going back to Straight Talk at the peak of my frustration, but I can’t get unlimited data anywhere else and I want the peace of mind that comes with having it.The only change that MetroPCS could make in order for it to be truly complete for me would be the integration of call detail, call forwarding, voicemail-to-text and call blocking in all service plans.
I’m hoping with this editorial/review that I can at least elaborate on what the experience was like for me. coming from a relatively self-contained service such as Straight Talk. In the 2 years that I had Straight Talk, not once did I ever have to contact customer service, for any reason, where as with MetroPCS, I’m having to call in multiple times for issues that are ultimately their responsibility to fix.
Even with everything that happened in the first month of service, I’m sticking with MetroPCS for the foreseeable future. My needs are served well by their service and T-Mobile’s network is quite robust, though you do need an LTE-capable phone to really get the most out of it. If I could do it all over again, I’d go to a different store or even order online to make sure I got everything I needed and wanted the first time without any major issues, as the third-party dealer network can be the definition of hit-or-miss in terms of quality.
Maybe my experience will drastically improve once I buy a better phone, but I’m not going to pin my hopes on a new phone magically fixing everything, but I would rather pin my hopes on MetroPCS being receptive enough to realize that there are still things it needs to fix in order to improve customer satisfaction. I believe that once it fixes the above issues, it can grow even further than it already has, which will bode well for everyone.