In the truth is stranger than fiction business news of the week, Sprint/Nextel announced that it was firing about 1,000 customers. These customers, in the eyes of the company, were trouble makers, calling the company repeatedly, sometimes as often as hundreds of times a month, to complain. Most of the complaints were about billing errors.
Rather than continue to provide less than stellar service to these customer-service sucking mischief-makers, Sprint’s response was to send a Dear John letter:
“While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs.”
Well that’s one way to boost your Net Promoter Score (NPS), as described by Fred Reichheld in his book, The Ultimate Question.
Personally, I think that instead of a big public breakup, which can only generate bad word of mouth (WOM) for the wireless giant, the Chief Customer Service Officer would have been smart to have taken a few lessons from companies such as Enterprise or HomeBanc Mortgage Corporation, as describe in Reichheld’s book.
HomeBanc Mortgage experiences major good-profit growth, year after year, by investing heavily in their employees. They train new hires in a seven to nine week boot camp. This training, pays off with “higher caliber service, infrequent errors, and happy customers,” according to Reichheld.
Reichheld also describes the Enterprise Service Quality Index (ESQi) developed by the car rental company, which measures customer satisfaction on a granular level that is fast, simple and transparent. The results of monthly branch surveys are reported with profit figures, allowing each branch to see how it stacks up against the other branches. And by tying personnel promotions to results of these surveys, a greater accountability is attained.
So how could Sprint have acted differently? I guess when you have 53 million other customers who need occasional attention, you should focus on them. But is dropping the miscreants a good precedent for any quasi public-utility company? Could my electric company drop me because I didn’t use enough electricity, and they decide that sending out my bill each month is too expensive? Could my gym drop me because I was there too much (in my dreams!)? A better solution for Sprint may have been to examine what these disgruntled customers have in common and what the most frequent individual complaints were. As stated above, and in the news and on the blogs, most complaints were about billing. We all know how confusing and tax-loaded any kind of communications bill is. And the calculations for options such as text messaging, roaming, off-peak, on-peak, rollover minutes, etc., can overwhelm even a Ph.D. in mathematics. For these special 1,000, I guess I would have set up a special subscription rate that is fixed-fee, flat-rate, never goes up, never goes down. Eventually they’ll move or die, and in the meantime, we will have peace over the airwaves, and Sprint wouldn’t be committing WOM suicide.