Yesterday, an item appeared on CNETâ€™s â€œCraveâ€?? site about Sprint breaking up with customers.Â I was totally struck by the article when I saw it and spent some time digging into it.
It seems Sprint decided to shed customers who they felt were overusing their customer service lines.Â The letter was sent in late June to a supposedly small number of Sprint customers, citing too many phone calls as the reason for terminating their service.Â
On the surface, anyone who has been on the receiving end of customer service calls can understand Sprintâ€™s issue.Â Some customers can be so â€œhigh maintenanceâ€?? that it is not profitable to keep them.Â Angry customers can occasionally be verbally abusive as well.Â Although the old saw â€œThe customer is always rightâ€?? applies in most cases, and one is far better off dealing with the issue in a way favorable to the customer and moving on, there is no reason anyone should have to deal with extremes of abusive language or verbal threats.
Digging below the surface, however, I question Sprintâ€™s wisdom in taking this action.Â First, Sprint hasnâ€™t been doing that well, so why would they deliberately shed much needed customers?Â The article I read mentioned their high â€œchurnâ€?? rate, higher than the competitionâ€™s.Â Itâ€™s always tougher to get new customers than get repeat business from happy current customers, so why rock a leaky boat?
Second, I question how Sprint counted the calls.Â As I searched the internet, read blogs, and followed response threads, I saw lots of comments about bad customer experiences when calling Sprint.Â Weâ€™ve all had at least one instance of waiting on hold for customer service, any customer service â€“ not just Sprintâ€™s, and then having the phone system hang up without ever reaching a live human being.Â Assuming you have a real issue, what do you do?Â You call back!Â The call counter ticks.Â What if you reach a customer service rep and he/she canâ€™t handle the issue, so they forward you to someone else?Â Iâ€™ve talked to as many as half a dozen people before getting issues resolved.Â Does Sprint count these as individual calls?Â The call counter spinsâ€¦â€¦â€¦
Third, what if the volume of service calls comes as the result of recurring, possibly systemic problems?Â Some bloggers out there were calling Sprint monthly to deal with constant billing problems!Â Hardly seems fair to then drop the service for too many calls.Â But then, as my husband frequently reminds me, â€œFair is a carnival with rides.â€??
Clearly, there are many possible causes for the large volume of customer service calls, coming from both Sprint and its customers.Â However, it certainly seems counterproductive for a troubled business to deliberately cause a flap over its own customer service!Â Did they think the word wouldnâ€™t spread?
Another product of my web research on this subject today was an article I found on the MSN Money site â€“ â€œThe Customer Service Hall of Shameâ€?? â€“ by Christopher Oster.Â Sprint topped his list.Â Now, how is such a distinction likely to appear to employees, customers, prospects and investors?Â
It doesnâ€™t look good.Â
What do you think?