Sprint Defends Customer Drop

In a very unapologetic manner, Sprint this morning released a statement defending the customer drops because the customers had the temerity to call customer service too much.

First, the service said that only about 1,000 letters of intent to remove service were sent out. The customers were carefully chosen, not just by computer, as part of the customer base they could not satisfy.

Second, Sprint cites the customers cut off as 40 times more frequently calling customer service representatives, taking time that should be allocated for other customers.

Third, the statement gives the main reason for termination of service, to upgrade the quality of customers on the network.

As I’ve said before, I used to sell Sprint phones and service, when I worked for Radio Shack. I will state that I fully recognize the fact that I have a jaundiced view, but my view in no way gets in the way of the facts. Everything I have said, and will say is fully true, and can be proven.

As far back as 1998, the Sprint service was always talking about quality customers. This is direct Sprintspeak for customers who are high profit. While I realize every retailer of wireless wishes to have high profit customers, an inordinate amount of time was spent on this concept. The idea was to oversell the customer on phones, rate plans, and levels of coverage. This meant that the customer was not really aware of what would make him/her happy and we [the sales force] were groomed to substitute our judgement for theirs.

This meant that moving the customer to the most expensive rate plan possible was pushed with extreme force. There were training sessions with the regional Sprint representative to come up with the most arcane and outlandish reasons why the customer needed the highest number of minutes we could possibly push. This ranged from dropping home service to the wisdom of how the customer’s needs would increase with time. While one would cause the other, we were encouraged to separate the two, not showing or acknowledging that the second followed the first.

One thing that could be said back then was that Sprint was an all digital network, so that was a plus and a minus. Again, the minus was that service areas were very limited, and at the edges of the coverage areas there were many dropped calls. The plus, and to be completely fair, it was a big plus…plans with unheard of number of minutes were available. Two thousand minutes for $75 per month was tremendous, if you could actually use them. [The most popular plan at this time with Airtouch, what would become part of Verizon, was 60 minutes, with 250 minutes on the weekends, for the entire month, for $30. The difference was that Airtouch customers had the ability to use their phones in a much more diverse set of circumstances, while the Sprint customer might frequently have to forego calls at many locations.]

What was amazing back then, and after checking with someone still selling Sprint, also today, is that in order to make a deal with the customer, the customer service center would be called to make the deal sweeter. The problem with this is that the customer service reps [CSRs] would make deals that would never get noted to the client’s service agreement or notes on the account. This is what gives rise to the claims of Sprint that customers are asking for things never promised. The people who set this up are fully aware of this, and this is the major reason why some people are calling so frequently. Naturally, any customer who gets promised something, and then doesn’t receive it, is going to want to know why.

Because of the ‘let’s make a deal’ attitude at Sprint, it is hard to find two customers who have exactly the same rate plan. Rate plans change more frequently than any other service provider. This makes it doubly difficult for Sprint, as one customer will be calling to see why they couldn’t get the same plan as his next door neighbor, and another will be calling to chastise the billing department, because those things promised are not being removed from the bill. 

This brings the next point of service with Sprint…the ideal customer is a business person, who travels a great deal, usually using their phone near an airport [where Sprint was quick to make sure coverage was good], and is never too critical of the bill, usually paying it without question, as long as the charges aren’t too far out of line. The more you deviate from this ideal, the less likely it is that Sprint will be a good fit for you.

I’m sure that these first 1,000 customers are merely a test, and if the customers fall in line, no more will be needed. If, however, the customer service calls don’t drop drastically, another round of this will probably follow, because Sprint is constantly striving to improve customer quality.


[tags] Sprint, Airtouch, Verizon, customer service representative, Let’s Make A Deal [/tags]