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If you take a gander through our featured providers, and look through the user reviews, you’ll see a universal complaint about the prepaid industry: Poor customer service. Of course, this exists across the entire cellular industry, but it seems that prepaid customers get picked on a bit more. Many of the complaints regard outsourced customer service, long hold times, and poor resolutions. And that’s not even mentioning the calling rates, some of which are a bit high. But then you get to Page Plus, and you’ll see that they have far fewer complains than the rest of ‘em. But why? And how?
It all starts and ends at customer service
It all started back in 1998, when a young man named Yassine Yassine worked in the customer service department. While there, he noted many observations as to what customers wanted.
He still makes those observations, and still makes them from the same room as the customer service reps. But he’s now the executive vice president of the company. And instead of being the only customer service rep, as he was in 1998, he now has a force of 100 working for him — though he’ll tell you they’re working for his customers.
“We focus on customer care because we have an underlying network,” says Yassine, referring to Page Plus as an MVNO of the Verizon Wireless network. “So we wanted to focus on something that is ours. And we noticed that other carriers tended to neglect their prepaid customers.”
Once again, a look at our user reviews will back up what Yassine says. While many companies treat customer service as taking away from the bottom line, Page Plus sees it as a vehicle to bolster that number. Even when I call, as a reviewer, I’m treated with as much respect as a customer would. And trust me, that’s rare nowadays.
The unique aspect of Page Plus’s customer service team is that they can help customers with any problem possible. Whether it’s tech support, dealer support, or account information, any CSR can help any customer from top to bottom. “We handle everything here,” says Yassine. “Even if we have to spend our own money to make them happy.” This is truly a breath of fresh air in the prepaid industry.
An emphasis on choosing prepaid
“It’s smart to choose prepaid,” says Yassine. Of course, the normal points came up, most emphatically the ability to pay for only the minutes you use. He referred to Page Plus’s owl logo as their implication that prepaid is for the wise. “We want to prove to customers that prepaid is the way to go.”
The problem is that many people see prepaid as a more expensive option. This is a bit misleading, though. For heavy talkers, this might be the case, since you’re paying per minute. However, as the per-minute rate comes down, prepaid becomes more attractive. “You shouldn’t be paying fifteen, twenty cents per minute,” says Yassine.
Page Plus really does make prepaid a smart choice. If you purchase their $80 refill card, which lasts 120 days, your rate is just under 6 cents per minute. At most of the major carriers, you won’t be able to find a rate below 10 cents a minute without paying a daily access fee — and even at 10 cents there’s often a daily charge for the service.
Page Plus’s “funny money”
The term “funny money” usually refers to some kind of laundering activity. But Page Plus uses it to refer to the way they scale their rate plans. See, there’s an inherent problem with offering multiple denominations of refill cards, with each card offering a different rate: How do you deal when people buy various denominations? That is, how do you calculate someone’s rate when they buy a $10 card, and then buy an $80 card before the first on expires?
Page Plus has figured out a way to cope. They scale your minutes, so that you’re always calling at 12 cents a minute. So when you buy the $80 card, which gives you 1400 minutes, you actually have $168 on your account.
This not only helps voice minutes, but SMS as well. The normal rates are 8 cents a text or 15 cents, but the “funny money” helps scale that a bit. Because while you’re still paying, say, 8 cents a text message, that’s coming out of your $168, not your $80. “Same with roaming,” says Yassine. So the higher denomination you buy, the more you save on everything.
Use any phone you want
You might notice that Page Plus’s phone selection is a bit lacking. Hey, they can’t do everything like they do customer service and rate plans. However, just because they don’t have a wide selection doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with an older, refurbished model. You can bring any phone onto the Page Plus network. Well, as long as it’s compatible with the network.
“The idea is that customers can walk into one of our dealers and say, ‘I want to try Page Plus’,” says Yassine. “You can port your number and change your device over, and if you don’t like it, you can always switch back.” So it seems that while other companies talk about “openness,” Page Plus is actually practicing it.
From the beginning until now
Page Plus started back in 1998, and moved along slowly for the next few years. But in 2001, they broke out. “We added tens of thousands of customers in a relatively short time,” says Yassine. At that point, they were ranked the No. 4 MVNO in America.
How did they do this? At the time, the normal prepaid calling rate was — get this — 50 cents a minute. So Page Plus decided to lop that in half. “We wanted to change the patter in the country as to the understanding about prepaid,” says Yassine. “Everyone else followed [the rate change], from big carriers to MVNOs, because they were charging too much for prepaid.”
Yet they continued to fly under the radar, failing to gain the attention of large outlets, but still providing a quality service at an attractive price. And they’re still seeing the benefits from this. Customers are starting to buy higher denomination rate cards, which is getting them better rates.
Not only that, but they’re also turning to Page Plus’s new offerings, which include unlimited nights and weekends, or unlimited period, like the new plans introduced this week. “We started the unlimited program at $2.99 in October, and it was working really well,” says Yassine. “So we eventually reduced it to $2.49.” This refers to the daily fee.
It’s really refreshing to see a prepaid company take this kind of approach to the market. They offer lower rates than most of their competitors, and provide a greater level of support for their service. There are so many options that it can fit any calling profile. And the best part is that you can just walk in and try it, with less risk than with other providers. In a world where options are becoming fewer, it’s nice to see a bevy of them with Page Plus.