Sprint Gets it Wrong

So, Consumerist and Seth Godin both posted on the Sprint letters cancelling 1000 customers for demanding service today.

Consumerist being Consumerist they took the consumer side with very little analysis. Seth being (IMHO) contrary took the Sprint side.

When I was getting my MBA we had a couple of people in our team building class who worked in sales/support at a large multi-national brokerage house. They presented as a problem to the class the exact same scenario -- customers who "call too much" but who don't have enough money invested to "make them worth it." They had self-trading on the phone and online, but these customers either didn't want to use it, or didn't know how (or had complex issues.)

Their suggested "process improvement" -- cut off those poor sods at 3 calls/month.

I asked if they had contemplated any of the following:

  • Targeting these people for training in how to use the web customer service, such as a video sent to the home
  • Having someone call the people and walk them through the web service or phone service, showing them how
  • Sending them literature on how to use the service

Both classmates looked sort of blank and asked why they would bother to help the customers, they just wanted them to go away...

Sprint obviously wants these people to go away. They have problems which Sprint hasn't empowered anyone to fix. They want (gasp!) working phones and correct billing, and that's just not something Sprint has decided to provide to these users.

So Sprint decides to get rid of them. Here's the problem with that -- 469,000 Google hits for "sprint letters cancelling service". Sprint just got a very black eye online. People will remember that if you have a problem with Sprint, Sprint is not there to help you. Moreover, Sprint employees will know that if they don't solve someones problems - that's OK, because Sprint will dump them!

The letters were the quick and dirty way out. The letters also smeared that dirt all over the Sprint reputation. Sprint obviously has a way to identify these customers. Sprint also undoubtedly has CSRs which handle the large, complex international corporate accounts. Accounts Sprint (remember, also Nextel) doesn't ever want to loose. How quickly could five of those people, empowered to solve these cases, have made 950 of the 1000 people happy? And how loyal would those customers have been after a solution, some hand holding, and maybe a free car charger or couple hundred text messages?

I really don't think you want your company to be known as the place that throws out customers for you screwing things up. What next, when you take the Big Mac back to McDonald's because you ordered a Chicken Fillet no Mayo, not a Big Mac, they refund your money and bar you from ever entering a McDonald's again? How long would it be before McDonald's customer service became truly awful? How long after that until no one was left to eat at McDonald's?


Anonymous said...

'469,000 Google hits for "sprint letters cancelling service"' How are you using that as a metric for how bad this will be for Sprint? Isn't it also possible that people will also be happy that the time it takes them to reach a CSR will hopefully decrease? And many of those 470K aren't even about Sprint firing their customer. This is definitely an interesting topic and I like your take on it, though I take Seth's side on this one.

Yet Another Girl said...

It was the quickest metric I could come up w/ on my lunch hour?

I still think if Sprint had taken the CSR's that help the big clients -- b/c face it, Sprint goes to great lengths to make sure the phones for VIPs with multi-million dollar corporate contracts ALWAYS work -- and empowered them to solve these cases they could have fixed many, many of these.

(And sorted out the "we don't want these people" as well, if that's a determination that needed to be made.)

Since we have the story of some of these people who got these letters, we know Sprint never made proactive moves... but made the people call in and get transferred and hung up on and all the rest.

Tom Coombs said...

I saw and wrote about this on my blog too. I think I am in your camp, the customer is the most important person in this equation, after all they are the ones spending $80+ a month.

My take was that these customers problems were an opportunity for Sprint to learn something new about their offerings and customer service. Apparently, they didn't see it that way.

Tom Coombs

radams36 said...

I'm going to suggest that EVERYONE who reads this do what I just did - call Sprint at 1-800-SPRINT1 (sales) and let them know why you will never do business with Sprint. A few hundred calls to them might convince them to change their mind about this unprofessional and despicable policy.

For my part, I think there needs to be a standard of common courtesy and of professionalism that supercedes profitability, at least to a point. Sprint obviously feels otherwise. Hanging up in someone's face should be reserved for extreme cases, not just for the company's convenience.