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July 13, 2007


Pat East

Quit making a mountain out of a mole hill. This situation is a good thing - for both Sprint, their ex-customers, and their current customers. It's not at all a bad one. Sprint ended the relationship for 1,000 people - most of whom are probably happy now to be relieved of their agreement and not have to pay $200 to do so. I really don't see how anybody is viewing this situation as negative - not every customer is profitable for a company and those that were calling 40 times a month were creating a morale issue. It lets Sprint take care of the customers who want to be happy and their employees are happier too. Jon Stokes and The Houston Chronicle seem to *want* there to be something wrong with this situation. Jon explains how you can get to 40 calls within a month. Can you name a single time -- ever in your entire life -- where you've had to make 40 phone calls to resolve an issue? That figure is extreme and he knows it. I've never had that happen to me, will likely never have it happen it me, and in most cases, won't call a company 40 times in my entire life time, much less in one month. Calling 40 times per month is an extreme example and Stokes makes it out like it's easy for it to happen. And, what's The Houston Chronicle's beef with Sprint? Why would Sprint decrease the threshold from 40 to 30 to 20 to 10? A slippery slope? Huh? They "fired" the customers that weren't good fits for them and I bet if you ask the people that were fired, they'll say they're glad that they can find a new home. Why would Sprint want to fire more customers just because they've already fired a few? Take a look at what Seth Godin wrote about the situation. Absolutely brilliant, as usual.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Pat

Thank you for writing

First, please understand, that Sprint Nextel official spokeperson Roni Singleton, in the Boston Globe, explained clearly, that THESE 1,000 had been carefully checked, that their 40-50 complaints per month - had not had a valid reason. This means that there ARE MANY MORE - several THOUSAND more, clearly according to Roni Singleton, several thousand more Sprint Nextel customers, who call 40-50 times per month - FOR LEGITIMATE REASONS, for several months, with billing etc problems, that are STILL TODAY not resolved.

You Pat are TOTALLY wrong. You have been lucky, in that you have not had to call Sprint Nextel 40 or 50 times per month for many months, but Sprint ADMITS it has tons of customers who are that desperate about Sprint's inability to fix these problems.

Your personal view is irrelevant, when Sprint clearly admits this problem exists. No wonder Sprint finished worst among ALL American companies, not just telecoms companies, in customer satisfaction.

As to any beef Houston Chronicle may have with Sprint, I don't know.

I do know, that Ars Technica analyzed this situation deeply, after it broke, and explained how "easily" a typical Sprint Nextel customer, in a typical problem situation CAN INDEED rack up 40-50 calls per month. I have the link in one of my follow-up stories, go read it.

You think Seth Godin's view is correct? You have that right to agree with Seth.

I do take issue especially with the fact, that Sprint's OWN CUSTOMER CARE, one week AFTER this matter broke, was still giving its current customers WRONG INFORMATION that they would be allowed to call as many times as they wanted ! See the discussion at the Sprint Users Forum.

And Sprint itself admits there were wrongful dismissals even in this "vetted" set of 1,000 - they have already re-instated several customers on an individual basis, as chronicled at the Sprint Users forum.

Pat, you think Sprint has a right to do this? If you think it does have a right to terminate 1,000 of those customers it thinks (this month) that their calls to the calling center were too much to handle. Note that out of 54 million customers, who call on average just under once per month (according to Sprint official figures), thus out of about 50 million calls, if all of these 1,000 called the full 50 times per month, it would only be 50,000 calls out of 50 million.

You do the math. Its exactly one tenth of one percent. 0.1%. Or if the average call (including waiting time) lasts 20 minutes (1,200 seconds), the total aggregate savings Sprint Nextel would gain, is 1.2 seconds of improved waiting time for the rest of Sprint's 53,999,000 customers.

No, this is a totally cosmetic move, totally irrelevant to waiting customers, as well as totally unmeasurable in any "savings".

That is what the Houston Chronicle meant, with the slippery slope to 30 calls, then 20 calls, then 10 calls. If 40 calls gain only 1,000 customers, and totally negligable effects - BUT if the customers are not outraged - then yes, next month or a few months down the line, Sprint Nextel could very easily fire the next "most abusive" customers, those who call 30 times per month. If 40 was too much, why isn't 30?

And then a few months later those who call 20 times, etc. If they proceed on this slippery slope, then eventually they WILL reach the level of number of customers and calls, that it can be detected "as an improvement" - but that would need to bring the levels down to under 10 calls (using normal distribution statistics).

Now, what is your angle on this story? Are you part of Sprint's PR machine or why would you come in to defend this company? It is according to MSN Money latest survey THIS MAY - the worst company in America by customer service and satisfaction.

The CEO of Sprint Nextel responded to that survey, talking to investors in May, that Sprint would work to improve its customer service.

Now the New York State customer protection agency insists that Sprint Nextel pays 200 dollars to every fired customer (as they would have to pay 200 if they left Sprint prior to their 2 year contract expiring). Expect other state consumer protection bodies to issue similar rulings.

So rather than get rid of these complainers and make savings, Sprint Nextel is going to pay 200 dollars per customer to subsidise their new phones on Verizon or AT&T or T-Mobile. With that wasted 200,000 dollars, Sprint Nextel could have bought at least 10 if not 20 or more REAL CUSTOMER SERVICE REPS in India (where the calling center has been moved) to actually IMPROVE its customer service.

This is a very bad move, by a very bad company, in absolute direct contrast to its stated position of improving customer service.

Most mobile telecoms experts have denounced this (including 4 of the 10 best read bloggers on mobile). Most newspapers have denounced it. Most marketing professionals have denounced this.

Even most who agree with this action, admit Sprint Nextel did it the wrong way.

Why are you defending Sprint Nextel, Pat?

With the above, has your opinion changed at all?

Please come back and give us your view, am happy to discuss it further.

But you ask why am I making a mountain out of a molehill ? This has been claimed by dozens of leading experts in telecoms and in marketing and customer relationship management, as a NEW LOW in the worst possible behaviour of any company anywhere.

That is why I am discussing it. I hope we - both at the side of the telecoms industry and the marketing professionals - can learn from this, like other massive blunders in marketing such as New Coke - and not to do anything like this again.

And I expect fully Sprint Nextel to apologize. They are facing enormous bad will out of this stupid move.

But thank you for writing Pat, we also welcome views who disagree with us. Your view is valid. I would ask you Pat, to consider what I wrote here, and then think, are you going with Seth Godin on this, or perhaps the vast majority of the marketing, telecoms and customer relationship people who have so far come out on this.

And isn't it a sign Sprint Nextel made a mistake when they now are already taking individual customers back?

Tomi Ahonen :-)


I'm just glad Sprint has explained how to get out of a 2-year contract... pointlessly call the call centre repeatedly and they'll cancel your account for you.

An American Person

Sprint REALLY messed up.

We just stopped talking about their racial class-action lawsuit -- Now, all of this happened at the same time they overhauled their branding campaign. Unfortunately, it's no surprise. Have you ever been inside a Sprint store?

If you want MY money, you have to convince me that ME, and MY MONEY are the prize... not YOU and all the stuff your network can do. If you treat me like crap; or I get the IMPRESSION that you treat your customers like crap (whether you do, or not) you're going to lose my money; and the money of everybody I know. The saddest part for you is -- while my calls may be a pain to you, my family relative's company could be your largest corporate client. Do I care if I get on your nerves? Your monthly bills for service get on mine.

This situation is parallel to the ugly woman who has the stellar voice; but noone buys her records; as opposed to the cute woman who is tone-deaf, but her records sell gold and platinum. When will companies realize that the PRODUCT is not what sells when everybody has similar products... it is the BRAND. It is the PERCEPTION of the brand. How many times can I call cust svc in a free country now, before I get cut off -- even if I'm calling about a problem I did not originate? 50? 12? 4? As a customer, I can't be so bothered. I want to go where I feel my money counts.

In conclusion. Sprint can draw boring, slow-motion circles of light all they want to on TV and call it fast -- while T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon continue to snap up new, loyal customers.

The simplicity of the stupidity is alarming.

Alan moore

Dear American person,

what a great quote, the simplicity of stupidity. Is really worth something. Can I quote you?

Thanks for posting


Rahul Razdan

An example of customer service: I wanted to perform a transfer of liability from my mother's account to my account. I was transfering my sister's number which is currently on my mother's account. They told me this would take seven days. I went to the store on Saturday before Turkey day, and agreed to start the process on Monday or Tuesday. They called me and I said we are good to go. Then they called my sister who could not pick up the phone because her service had been cancelled and left her a message(sad isn't it?). Seven days have passed and ofcourse the transfer of liability is not complete, so I called sprint cust. srvc last night and was told that my sister never returned the call, and then the rep says "Huh, why did they call your sister when your mom owns the account?" then she says that there was a note on the account that my sister never returned the call. By the way when I returned the call on her behalf the number they provided 18664128513 went straigt to a generic menu. I called the store and got very livid with the guy and he said he would call and find out. Then I decided to call cust. srvc myself.

Now I get a completely different storyfrom customer service. The reason the transfer of liability was not complete was that my mother's account was disconnected because it was not paid on time and it's on the new billing sytem. Okay, why were we not made aware of that seven days ago when we were in the store filling out the transfer of liability? The guy from the store calls me back and tells me the same new story as well. At this point a lot of drama ensues ( no I did not use foul language, I hung up first, she did argue with me as to why Sprint's CEO stepped down.)

I used to think the customer service reps were the problem, now I have realized it is a combination of the people and processess in place. There is a lack of communication between the various groups, and unfotunately it is usually compounded by the sometimes rude cust. reps on the phone. I think Sprint is in a state of "who cares, we still make money". They don't care as long as they continue to generate profits.

Current status, the rep I spoke with today told me she can't ofcourse do anything becuase my mom has to call ensemble to first pay her bill becuase the rep can't access the new billing system. WOW, a new billing sytem that only ensemble can access, why does that not make sense to me? Before you ask, the only reason I have stayed with sprint is becuase of the Mogul 6800 which I love dearly.
To end this wonderful story the rep I spoke with just now was polite, sympathetic and expedient in resolving the problem, how hard is for Sprint to clone these folks with the "right" attitude for this kind of work?

Oh by the way, I am Indian I was born in India grew up here, and yes I still hold my Indian heritage and culture very close, please do not move your call center to India. How does that make sense to you as a company? You are having problems with the quality of service you provide so lets reduce the cost, not improve quality? Yes Indians speak english but the accent is too thick for American's to tolerate. Sorry that is not a viable solution. Who ever made that decision is obviously part of the problem with Sprint's quality of service issue.

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