Inside The Sprint Customer Service Meltdown

BusinessWeek has a truly excellent article about the customer service meltdown that lead to Sprint’s current notorious reputation for poor customer service. The article sums up what we’ve been reporting over the past year: After the Sprint/Nextel merger, “customer service” was essentially destroyed as a concept at the new company. The CSRs were rigidly timed and judged only on how short their calls were and how many contract extensions they were able to bring in. Even bathroom breaks were monitored, one ex-Sprint CSR told BusinessWeek.

“Churn,” the industry term for rate of customer retention, went from being a priority at Nextel to an afterthought at Sprint. CSRs that were judged on how many problems they solved for Nextel’s customers were suddenly being told to shorten their call times at any cost. More troubling is the fact that large cash bonuses were offered to reps who met contract extension goals, a tactic that may have resulted in corrupt CSRs extending contracts without the customer’s consent. This issue is now the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Minnesota attorney general’s office.

From BusinessWeek:

Allegations in the two lawsuits against Sprint raise questions about how far Sprint workers went in meeting those sales quotas. Selena L. Hayslett, a realtor from Apple Valley, Minn., says she called Sprint Nextel four times in late 2006 to dispute charges on her bill. Then she realized that each time she called, Sprint was extending her contract, without her consent, according to an affidavit filed in one of the suits. “I felt tricked,” said Hayslett.

Her complaint is included in a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota attorney general, alleging that Sprint extended contracts when customers made small changes to their service. “It’s kind of like the Hotel California,” says Lori Swanson, the attorney general, “where you can check in and never leave.”

Sprint’s case should serve as a warning to companies that view “customer service” in the light that Sprint did. The company’s new CEO, Daniel “At Least I’m Not Gary Forsee” Hesse, says they’ve learned their lesson:

“We weren’t talking about the customer when I first joined,” says Hesse. “Now this is the No. 1 priority of the company.”

Sprint’s Wake-Up Call [BusinessWeek]
(Photo:Meghann Marco)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ARP says:

    “We weren’t talking about the customer when I first joined…”

    WTF? I don’t have a PHD in economics, but my basic understanding of our economic system is that in order to sell products and services, you need someone to buy them. I believe those persons or entities that buy things are commonly referred to as, “customers.”

  2. bobblack555 says:

    I went to a charity auction last night sponsored by Sprint (who is headquartered here in KC). They were raffling off a new Palm Centro phone as a door prize. As soon as everyone found out that you had to get a Sprint contract with it, though, everyone stopped submitting their raffle slips.

  3. asten77 says:

    Well, here’s hoping the new CEO fixes this. I used Sprint years ago and they were great back in the early days of digital cellular.

  4. PirateWithParrot says:

    I have Sprint and love the terrible service I get. Of course I am not the smartest bird in the cage either. I just do not do well when picking what companies to do “biz” with. DirecTV, Vonage and Sprint all seemed like great ideas at the time. Just label me stupid I guess.

  5. Zovini says:

    Although I’ve heard these horror stories for a while, I took the plunge last year on a SERO plan. I could not have made a better choice. Unlimited texts, unlimited data, 500 minutes, 6pm nights, insurance for under 40 a month. And all without a hiccup.

    On the other hand, maybe I’ve just been lucky that nothing has broken, sending me into a hellish spiral with CS.

  6. AaronZ says:

    I know I go against the grain here, but I have no problem with sprint.

  7. remusrm says:

    @bobblack555:

    ha ha ha ha… and they say they changed…

  8. PHX602 says:

    I have a theory that Six Sigma and TQM programs — basically the crap that states “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” — have led to the downfall of customer service in this country.

    It forsakes true immeasureable solutions (overall customer experience, true problem resolution and overall satisfaction) in favor of BS corporate versions of roto-league baseball — how many calls can be flipped in an hour, how long a customer remains on hold, how much crap can be upsold, how many contracts can be extended, ad infiniteum.

  9. GrandizerGo says:

    And they are liars as well.
    I have had service through them for more than 6 years, first with Nextel and now this beast as well…
    Almost 2 years ago I brought my 2 daughters cell phones. One lost hers after ~6 months, and the other had hers dropped into bleach water by a 3 year old child a few weeks before Xmas.
    I brought new phones for them and gave them to them as a Xmas present, AND ADDED the insurance with them.
    In early January I then replaced my old Nextel with a new Sprint phone, and then had the girls added to my plan.
    2 Days after that, someone stole my oldests’ phone. I reported it and then asked how does the replacement option work?
    I was told that I had no option as it was never added to the phones when I brought them!
    When they transferred the girls account into mine they deleted the account they had previously! They now claim that they NEVER had service before the day my phone was activated!
    Even though I gave them the account number that I had paid for more than a year when they had their own account!
    They know they are at fault and done want to honor a $300 phone replacement.
    The manager even claims the same thing.
    So when I asked where the money I had paid to the account # blah blah has went for the last X months, they claim they have no idea.
    Additionally my company qualifies for a corporate discount that frequently gets dropped off for no apparent reason. If you don’t watch your bills, then you are likely to pay more money because they go in and remove it for no apparent reason… And then argue with you to get it reinstated and credited.
    I see why people are up in arms with their lack of service. They go out of their way to make a DISHONEST buck.

  10. shadow735 says:

    People that stay with sprint fall into three categories
    1. Stuck in a contract
    2. Stuck in a continually extended contract due to all the calls they make
    3. Dont have a clue an enjoy bending over to recieve crappy service and sup par reception

    Sorry people but Sprint sucked the dockeys ass long ago so now it has no balls.
    Drop them like a bad habit, now this may be hard if you are a sprint junky after all some people just cant let go of abusive relationships.

  11. When I cancelled my Sprint contract, I took no small measure of delight in taunting the “customer retention specialist” whose script came very close to outright belittling the customer for leaving Sprint.

    He quickly ran out of script, and started gasping like a fish out of water as I rained questions down upon him. It was petty, but dammit, I enjoyed.

    But when it was all said and done, I didn’t have a problem with the Sprint network itself – I’d even say it out performs my current provider. But the pricing structure and customer service department were so abysmal that I happily paid the ETF just to be gone.

  12. shadow735 says:

    Verizonwireless all the way Best customer service reps ever, best reception ever. I get 4 bars of signal 99% of the places I go and this included parking structures.
    Now verizon added a unlimited calling for $99 bucks so if you make lots of calls jump on the cool train!!
    I dont work for them I am just a loyal customer, they won me and the only way I will ever leave is if another carrier pays me a million bucks. and even then I will still have verizon on another phone. I love them!!!!

  13. Three Word Chant says:

    @PHX602: Very much agree – immeasurable service and out of the way actions often are the highlight of good customer service. And strangely enough, some of these measures don’t cost anything so they couldn’t be measured.

    Here’s what I found funny…the “Hotel California” analogy of being able to check in but not out was already used here recently: [www.nytimes.com]

    “It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

    In light of the Hillary/Obama plagiarism dustup, its interesting to see Nipon Das of Manhattan and Attorney General Lori Swanson of Minnesota stealing each others technology analogies.

  14. P41 says:

    Shocking how poor customer service (like what’s described) can affect the entire company.

    Basic common sense business rules apply. It’s about the customers, not the org charg. Consumerist.com vindicated.

  15. UpsetPanda says:

    Spring never ceases to amaze at how horrible their customer service can be. Our family abandoned Spring a decade ago after they magically stopped picking up signals in our area…we were in the suburbs!

    OT: Vonage, IMO, was always too good to be true. Make phone calls through the internet! Pay far less than you would normally! Yeah, but between downtime and unreliable equipment and the constant reminder that some VoIP companies could fold like a house of cards in a minute, I’ll stick to “conventional” methods.

  16. K-Bo says:

    @shadow735: but they cripple their phones. I’m a computer programmer, if I buy a phone with all the bells and whistles, I want to be able to use the bells and whistles. I’ve been torn for about a year, loose my good reception, or keep my phone that claims to do everything but really just makes calls ( and yes, I know that’s it’s main duty, but I didn’t know how verizon cripples phones when I bought it, and paid way too much, I could have got a phone that does the same thing for $1.00 with my contract.)

  17. Dorgon says:

    I have Sprint, and I look at cell phone service as a best-of-the-worst kind of decision. All of the cell companies stink in their own way. Sprint has mediocre service, but I absolutely love the plan I have, and could not get it elsewhere.

  18. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    @PHX602: That’s an interesting theory. I’d heard of Six Sigma before, but never really knew what it entailed. Now I understand why “metrics” have become so important in my office. Unfortunately, they are a useless time-waster. We track the metrics, but they provide no useful information. While a number of us share the same job title and are essentially doing the same tasks, there are wildly varying levels of difficulty in what it takes for each of us to create similar products.

    Consider a company which creates engines. No two people make the same engine. While one person makes lawn mower engines, another makes engines for nuclear-powered subs. Is it fair or useful to judge how many of the former engines are created during the time it takes to create one submarine engine? Not really. The only thing the metrics are capable of telling you is how each individual performs against himself, over time. You can’t compare the engine makers’ speed in output to each other.

    Trying to compare, limit, quantify or control something varying as wildly as the complaints of customers is similarly silly. Complaints differ in complexity. Trying to create an arbitrarily limited response ignores the obvious. The more complex the issue, the more angry that customer will be with that limited response.

  19. shadow735 says:

    Sprint is stupid just think about it, bad rep gets spread faster then good rep. Good rep about a company gets spread when the subject is brought up (as in people looking for new cell phones/service) but bad service and experiences are told to everyone regardless if the subject is brought up or not.

  20. shadow735 says:

    @K-Bo: what do you mean by cripple, I got the LG black chocolate (which I hate to death but its the phones fault not verizon) basically my phone randomly dials gets activated ect because its in my pocket and the buttons are hella sensitive, plus the phone is a sec or two slow when going thru each function.
    I dont understand about disabling functions though, are you using a pda phone or something like that?

  21. Three Word Chant says:

    @shadow735: Phones often have features that are built in (meaning in the hardware of the phone) but are not actually accessible due to the phone companies. The Chocolate is a good example – it has a speakerphone, but the first model of the phone didn’t allow you to use it. Mine broke, and when it was replaced, the phone had speakerphone on the menu but it was the same phone, Verizon just decided we were now worthy of it.

  22. shadow735 says:

    @Ditch1852: I see what you are saying
    I have the version with the speaker phone, it would be a cool phone IF I could disable buttons and functions, when the phone goes to sleep (screen darkens) and I get another call for some reason I cant pick up the other call when I hit the button to wake it up and click the telephone icon it hangs up the incoming call and sometimes the call I was on, but the most annoying thing is the ranndom things the phone does due to its sensitive buttons while I am on calls, or if its in my pocket. and I have the sesitivity set to the lowest setting.

  23. K-Bo says:

    @shadow735: bluetooth does so much more than let you use one of those little ear pieces, but verizon blocks all other functionality. Many verizon phones that are sold by other carriers also have much better software on the other carriers, verizon makes all their phones have the same crappy software. Those are just 2 examples that bug the heck out of me.

  24. digitalgeneral says:

    Companies can only offer two of these three things:
    1. Price
    2. Customer Service
    3. Quality

    Sprint/Nextel seems to only offer quality reception/phones (which is arguable).

  25. Coder4Life says:

    I WOULD NEVER USE SPRINT/NEXTEL EVER AGAIN…. TERRIBLE BILLING PROBLEMS AND WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVERRRRRRRR..

    YOU’VE LOST ME FOR LIFEEEE.

  26. jinjin1080 says:

    @K-Bo: What does Verizon block in regards to BT? I can use it to sync data, use a headset, and sync to other phones? What else do you need for BT? If anything you should blame phone manufacturers for crippling there phones with crappy firmware (LG I’m looking at you).

    I have Sprint, and I must say when I had to deal with a CSR it’s been hit or miss, but generally I’d say the service is good (atleast where I’ve lived.) Plus the SERO plan rules.

  27. Sasquatch says:

    They can do whatever they want, but the public perception is that
    they don’t give half a shit about their customers, and that’s a tough
    reputation to shake. But they’re a cell phone carrier. They’re the
    worst in an industry full of worsts.

  28. weave says:

    @jinjin1080: It’s nice to be able to transfer programs and files like pictures, movies, and ringtones in and out of the phone via bluetooth. Like with my current phone (with t-mobile) I can just bluetooth a neat picture I took to a friend without having to MMS it over and have it reduced, stripped, whatever — and it’s faster.

  29. Jim says:

    @Ditch1852: I noticed that too. I’m trying to remember the Hotel California reference I saw this week, it wasn’t either of these. Must be the hot analogy this week.

    I’m stuck with Sprint at the moment and am counting down days until I can rid myself of them in September. They have been so awful, I’ve committed myself to completely ridding myself of mobile phones, not just Sprint. I lost my phone somewhere in my house (we’re moving) this week and I haven’t missed it at all. I haven’t been nearly as stressed as I usually am either. I hope it stays lost!

  30. Ramses says:

    Sprint customer service has been terrible since way before the Nextel merger. Nextel wasn’t so hot either. I’ve had both and I dont recommend either. The experience is just awful.

  31. LAGirl says:

    Sprint had good service in the LA area, great deals on phones, decent calling plans. but all that means nothing when you’re getting the worst customer service EVER. as soon as my contract was up, i left. i don’t know anyone who still uses Sprint.

  32. William Mize says:

    As someone who used to work for MCI, which became Sprint, which ate Nextel, let me tell you it was the worst year of my life.
    Customer Service and Retention for the “new Microsoft Network”. Yeah. Remember that? Supposed to take down AOL with one fell swoop?

    I’m lucky I didn’t die of ulcers.

  33. Jim says:

    @AaronZ: Several people I know don’t have any problems. But when I start to ask questions I often find that they’ve never moved, they don’t look at their itemized charges, they don’t use features, they don’t travel much…

    I’m not saying you don’t, but ignorance truly is bliss sometimes.

  34. Consumer007 says:

    I got out of a contract with Sprint in early 2000 because they falsely advertised they serviced ALL of the Houston Metro area. Nope. I lived in Zip Code 77018 (smack dab in middle of Harris County, and in Houston’s inner loop) and tested with 2 other friends with sprint phones (and different makers) – NOBODY with sprint could place or receive a call in that area. I called and demanded a cell phone field or tower technician to talk to or call me back and they refused to get one. So I said “unless you can have a technician prove to me and show me getting or receiving a call on a Sprint phone in this zip code, I’m cancelling for cause. They declined the test, and no contract fee.

  35. K-Bo says:

    @jinjin1080: My phone (admittedly over 2 years old) only allows headset bluetooth profiles. It will see but not connect to any other profiles. Good when one of my idiot friends wants to beam me a picture of his butt, not so much the rest of the time.

  36. midwestkel says:

    I have no problem with Sprint either because I dont call them. As a former CSR I can tell you that we were offered bonuses for the most sales I thought it was currupt system because I would track my own sales and it never added up to what they said I had. If are calls were too long someone would come tell us to to wrap it up basically. We were timed on how long it took to take calls and told that we have to keep it under 7.5 minutes if not it dropped our numbers and didnt look good for our team.

    Also I hated how the system was you got 2 15 minute breaks and so if you had to get up and use the bathroom that cut into our breaks.

    It sucked ass working as a CSR for them.

  37. GearheadGeek says:

    @shadow735: There’s also my category: Get significant discount through my employer, all my employer’s company-issued phones are Sprint so I can have a low-minute plan and still take calls from coworkers, and I was smart enough to choose the plan I wanted at the outset and don’t have to game the system and get a new phone every 3.25 months. I have a reliable phone, great reception, high-speed data and no significant complaints. I don’t assume that my situation is representative of their customer base as a whole, and you might do well not to assume that everyone who doesn’t think Sprint is the puppy-eating spawn of Satan is a moron.

  38. asynja says:

    They’ll fix it? Whatever…SHOW ME, and I might believe it.

  39. DwightIsMyCopilot says:

    I used to have Sprint up until they tried to charge my husband and I a $125 fee for the two of us to get a joint account, despite the fact that we both had seperate Sprint accounts in good standing. They said it was because “We show you’re not in good standing” and refused to give more details. This was after we had both had accounts for over 3 years each and had paid on time every month. When I told them that was ridiculous and we could walk next door to the Cingular store, the CSR said “You’re welcome to do so.” So uh, we did. And as much as I dislike AT&T, it sure beats being treated the way Sprint treated me.

  40. SuperJdynamite says:

    @PHX602: “how many calls can be flipped in an hour, how long a customer remains on hold, how much crap can be upsold, how many contracts can be extended, ad infiniteum”

    Upselling a customer and extending contracts should count as negatives in your metrics — things which have to be offset by positive customer experiences in order to be keeping your head above water, customer service wise.

  41. deadlizard says:

    All these companies that shortchange their customers with customer service (giving time limits to call, making it difficult to talk to a person, etc.) will realize in the long run, it’s bad for business.

  42. stacye says:

    One company I worked at figured that every minute a customer sat on hold it cost that company $1,000. Not sure how they figured this, but it’s one of the main drivers in monitoring call times.

    I can understand CSR Time tracking for training, but I can’t think of a single company that has benefited from moving away from First Call Resolve to Call Time tracking as official performance measurements.

    If your main objective is tracking the time of your agents, then they are more likely to hang up people, transfer them to departments (aka punting the customer), or other tactics that result in a service loss that your customer bears.

    Stuff like this is unfair for the representative, and it’s unfair for the customer. Your company doesn’t save any money, because your customers have to keep calling back in to get their problem fixed. They still wait in queue, and it’s still costing the company money.

  43. JohnOB1 says:

    Bravo for being mentioned in the same issue of BusinessWeek as a Consumer Vigilante.

  44. HootieMac says:

    OK, have we determined yet which is the “best” cell phone company? Any time there’s a post here about a cell phone company, whether it be CS problems, getting out of contracts, whatever, people bash whatever company is being discussed. I’ve had Sprint for nearly 6 years, and have had 1 minor billing problem- which was quickly fixed- and no other issues. Despite that, I’ve strongly considered ditching them when my plan is up b/c of of all the horror stories I’ve read here. I have no idea who I’d switch to, though, since every provider seems to have their detractors.

  45. shadow735 says:

    @GearheadGeek: Okay then there are 4 categories of people still with sprint

    4. Lucky customers that have not had any issues or problems with Sprint.

    :Fixed:

  46. @ARP: Peter Lynch, the genius of business quotes says, “The sole purpose of a business is to create a customer.” With no customers, no reason to be a business. Course, once they’re customers, it’s up to you how you treat em.

    A small technical point: “Churn” is the rate of drops, not of retained customers. You manage your churn rate by retaining more customers (through good service or shady means if you’re Sprint/Nextel). Technically, a measure of retention, but only through deduction. The use of Churn above should be “retention rate” not Churn.

  47. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @GearheadGeek: I’m in the same boat, except I don’t even work at the company anymore. Nobody has ever asked for verification, so I just keep on taking my discount and not making a fuss :)

    Makes me wonder if the majority of their customers are corporate accounts who just don’t care enough to cancel.

  48. @PHX602: Disagree about TQM/Six Sigma. There are some really great applications, and you could even apply TQM to customer service in a useful way. Six Sigma, maybe not, but if you like your big screen plasma/lcd TV, believe it or don’t, that comes from a Six Sigma process by 3M (they have like 90% of the market share in the technology to etch the screens… I’m gonna stop pretending I understand the technical processes behind a modern TV here… just that 3M is behind it and they are a Six Sigma company top to bottom).

    Worked on an initiative to bring TQM to St. Louis schools. It can be customer friendly.

    Think of these like tools. A Hammer can be used to build houses, it can be used to bash heads in. The hammer doesn’t have a moral value. The user does. TQM/Six Sigma can be used for good or for avarice. Clearly, the management at Sprint/Nextel is not using it for good in customer service.

  49. tinmanx says:

    I was with the old Sprint, love their vision plan with unlimited everything except for minutes. But when it came time to leave, they wouldn’t let go of my number for some reason, so I had to carry two phones for a few days. A year after I left Sprint they somehow gave my number to someone else, and had to nerve to call and say I had to give up my number (one that I’ve had for years) to their new customer. I was not amused, their new customer got a new number.

  50. axiomatic says:

    What is most screwed up about this. Some Sprint VP and his band of middle management “yes men” all got bonuses and raises for dramatically reducing call response times and time per call. While burying the stats of customer satisfaction.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “SUITS” FUCK UP EVERYTHING!

    I assure you, no shareholders voted for this even though management will claim it’s all for them.

    American business and management is FUBAR.

  51. jdjonsson says:

    I made the mistake of signing up for Sprint a year ago before I found The Consumerist.

    My company qualifies me for a discount, which I called and asked for. They said they’d give it to me, but it has never appeared on my bill.

    I have called the customer service line several times when I thought I had a problem, but NEVER got through to a live person. I ended up fixing the problem through their website.

    As soon as my contract is up a year from now, I’m switching to someone else for sure unless CS gets dramatically better.

  52. SpenceMan01 says:

    @shadow735:

    4: Have a SERO plan and pay less than half the price for a similar plan at another carrier.

    My coworker just signed up for a 200 minute, unlimited data plan through Verizon. I asked how much she was paying a month and when she replied with “80 bucks”, I just about covered my cube wall with the water I was drinking. I’m on the 500 minute, $30/month SERO plan and barring any egregious mishaps with Sprint, there’s no way you’d get me to go with anyone else.

  53. GrandizerGo says:

    Sprint needs to take it’s head out of it’s ass, go to Korea, hire 20-30 of their people from the cell phone companies there and start implementing the superior service here.
    Once that is done, at a LARGE cost I am sure, it will put them back in the lead again.
    Stop paying the suits in the US, who sit on their ass doing NOTHING, money that if it was put into upgrading the service would have turned to profit long ago.
    You are seeing it with FIOS now, soon Comcast and others will be tossed out thanks to the new tech.

  54. calacak says:

    Go ahead and make fun, but I’m a happy Sprint customer. I’ve been with Verizon and AT&T in the past and for my needs, Sprint has worked out the best. The great thing is, with their company problems, you can use this to your advantage. I recently signed up for a family plan to bring my parents into the 21st century and talked them into this:

    - 4 new Katana 2s for $30 (parents, brother and gf)
    – 200 Minutes/Month
    – Free Text messaging
    – $5 unlimited Internet for my Treo
    – paided no fees to sign up the new 4 phones

    For $79.99/month and I get a 33% off from my employer.

    My total bill is under 60 bucks a month for 200 mins and 5 phones. Can’t beat that :)

  55. kingdom2000 says:

    Having worked for a helpdesk, this is stat-centric approach is the classic method used to run CS centers now. Most of the time, the managers themselves couldn’t help a customer to save their life. Their experience with helpdesk management and customer service is the usual platitudes they read in a book but not based on actual genuine, “I have worked at a helpdesk” experience. This lack of experience often leads to moronic and inept goals and procedures based entirely on the spreadsheet management style.
    Spreadsheet managers are ones who really have no clue what they are doing so every decision is based on a spreadsheet report generated from the call system and ticketing system. Nothing else. Data correlation across different reports is beyond their ability to comprehend. Correlating problems from multiple departments to get a better understanding of an issue is also beyond them. Their knowledge is truly limited to “this number must go up, this one down.”

    As a result of the spreadsheet style that the HD managers (and those above them) love, the employees are simply measured by certain set statistics (say calls take per hour, talk time per call, tickets created, sells made, etc). If it can’t be counted, it didn’t happen. The CSR that manipulates the data (rather then simply doing good work) is the one that appears to shine to management.

    So the CSR whose work resulted in 10 happy customers, taking 10 minutes per call would actually get chewed out compared with the CSR that failed 10 customers, taking only 5 minutes per to do that. After all, a spreadsheet doesn’t track customer satisfaction (that’s a separate report in another department so not considered related).

    For managers, the goal is essentially 100%, X numbers of called answered in per hour, with Y seconds hold time while using the fewest number of people as possible. The goal isn’t to get enough people to do the job well, the goal is to get as few people as possible to just skate by. A single person calling in sick would blow the stats for the day.

    An example: Say 10 people answering 10 calls per hour for 100 throughput, average talk time of 6 minutes. If you are spreadsheet manager, this seems too high, so you force the employees to go to three minutes or less resulting needing only 5 employees “helping” the same 100 customers. Now anyone with CS experience would groan at this knowing the pitfalls, usually meaning little or no genuine customer services is occuring, but if you’re the helpdesk manager, this is an improvement. More important, the HD manager’s bosses see the same spreadsheet and the savings of employing five people and reward him for his excellent work.

    The end result is you have incumbent mangers being encouraged by more incompetent managers to continue inept behavior that results in the department failing at its one and only task – giving customer service.

    A spreadsheet manager is the warning sign of an inept idiot who plays the game well but unable to run a department. They are legion, for their managers are just like them.

  56. nikalseyn says:

    I used to think AT&T had terrible customer service until I ran up against Sprint! My son got a family plan for himself and my wife and I, then was deployed to Iraq. He successfully suspended the phone but then after about 6 months, Sprint started charging him for piddling amounts for the Al Gore tax, etc. Whenever I called the CSR would say “they must be correct, they are mandatory,etc”. I finally drove over to the local Sprint store and found that if I wasn’t a potential new customer, they wanted no part of me or my problem. What a bunch of losers and really, lazy people. I finally did get a lady from Sprint who worked in Utah and not only spoke English but was very helpful and who solved the problem with, apparently, their computer program. All in all, when my son’s contract is up, both he and my wife and I will be going to a new company, certainly NOT Sprint.

  57. MelL says:

    Customer service-wise, I actually like Sprint. At least in that the people are nice, even if they do seem powerless to fix things at times. For instance, this week I had my address changed for where I wanted my billing statements to go to. Somehow, my phone number was changed during the process, something I was not informed of. It took a trip to a Sprint store where the manager spent a while on the phone with Sprint to figure out the problem: the changed number, since I was obviously unable to receive calls or text messaging. And logging onto Sprint’s website was obviously out as well since I had no clue what my true phone number was.

    Ugh, Sprint. :(

  58. “Forsee, now the president of the University of Missouri, declined to comment for this story.”

    The head honcho who threw customer satisfaction under the bus is now a university president? That’s… kind of a bummer.

  59. guevera says:

    He should do great as UM president. When I was there, administrators routinely toadied to the state legislature, overpaid incompetent administrators and faculty members, left most of the real teaching up to exploited and inexperienced grad students, and ultimately failed the students it allegedly served.

    Just change the pronouns to, say, stockholders, executives, CSRs, and customers, and you’ve got Sprint. It’s a natural match for my old school!

  60. pigeonpenelope says:

    why in the world would sprint not care about their customer service? what kind of idiot ceo do they have?

  61. tiatrack says:

    All cell phone companies are awful. That said, I am a very happy 8 year customer of Sprint. Just last week I was given a plan by their retention specialist (who was helping me change the people in my family plan) that is 3 lines, nights at 7 (which I was paying $5 for with my old plan), no roaming charges (which my old plan didn’t have), 1000 minutes (my old plan was 800), all for $50! Better yet, I DIDN’T SIGN A NEW CONTRACT!

    I’ve been in the Sprint store twice in the last month for problems with my phone (it’s old). Both times it was fixed for free in a timely manner and the people were so nice. I’m certainly sticking with Sprint.

  62. kevinhall says:

    Yeah, Sprint customer service is awful. When my wife and I were getting married two years ago and wanted to move our phones off of our respective parents’ plans and on to a new one we spent weeks trying to get them to do it, getting new conflicting instructions every time we spoke to somebody. Finally my wife was on the verge of tears in their store, just begging the manager to please give us clear instructions on what to do when the manager threatened to call the cops on us for complaining and making a scene (we hadn’t even raised our voices). We then moved our numbers to Verizon. That took us one 15 minute visit to their store and 10 of that was spent looking at phones. Much easier.

    I second the point that while their network was good, the service was absolutely terrible and incompetent. Verizon never threatens to call the police when we ask a simple question – I like that a lot.

  63. phrits says:

    Sprint bait-and-switched me about 8 days before everything changed, but that’s a story for another time. (Yes, they actually tried to use 9/11 as an excuse when I called to cancel.) So I went Nextel, because my earlier Cingular (via Nokia) connectivity had been so bad. I wasn’t pleased to hear about the merger.

    But since then, Sprint’s been good to me. On one call, some tech-ish person I talked to knocked $10 off my monthly bill just because she saw an available discount on my internet connectivity. If customer service went from “a priority at Nextel to an afterthought at Sprint,” that may tell us that they’re still maintaining separate call pools for at least some customers.

  64. sventurata says:

    @kingdom2000: Hear, hear!

  65. ex-IRS says:

    “The CSRs were rigidly timed and judged only on how short their calls were…Even bathroom breaks were monitored,”

    The IRS micro-manages their Customer Service employees EXACTLY like this, and they have even taken the step of having managers follow employees to the bathroom and stand outside the stall and listen in to make sure that the employee is actually using the toilet rather than just taking a mini-break by pretending that they have to use the bathroom.

    The next time you call the IRS for tax help and get a crappy, unhelpful IRS Customer Service employee, they probably just got back from their bathroom break…

  66. naptownk says:

    Sprint is like an abusive boyfriend. They tell you they’ll change, and do nice things for you to stay, then they beat you up again! Sprint was great in the early years, but my god you don’t want to have an issue with billing or anything, because their reps mock you. I had a guy laugh at me with my increasing anger. Eventually I had to bring the BBB in because I repeatedly told the rep to end my account and he talked over me instead of ending it. BBB had the $200 fee abolished thankfully, but I’ve never had a cell phone company make me cry and laugh in my face before. They need to fold already.

  67. macmizzle says:

    Ever since my first Sprint bill, I’ve had to call customer service up to have them remove the data charge from my bill, a charge that they say is coming from phones that have the Internet and other data disabled. It’s generally only about $3 each time, but regardless, it’s very annoying.

  68. JeepyJayhawk says:

    This is something suddenly comming to light? In 2000 I worked for Sprint local, then Sprint PCS as a Customer Rep or whatever the peons were called back then. We were regularly pushed to increase call volume and efficiency. I was once put on notice for having a 97% rating, they wanted a 98% or better. The straw that broke the back was being called out in a group meeting for taking a loo break a few too many times during a shift. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

    It sucks a local company to me is going down in flames, but they have been on the decline for a long time.

  69. lastchapter says:

    I used to work for Sprint, and I had a Sprint (Hybrid) phone. I went to change my plan with Sprint one day, I use a Hybrid phone. When I finally got ahold of a service rep, he, barely speaking english, informed me that the current plan I had (PP900) was the ONLY plan I was able to get on that phone. Stunned, I said, so every one of my friends that have the Hybrids, have this plan? And he said “Yes, that is correct.” I said, thats funny, because I previously changed my plan FROM PP450 to PP900. He then said “No sir, your phone uses a SIM card, and that is the only plan you can have…”

    I now work for T-Mobile. No wonder 800,000 subscribers LEFT Sprint in the 4th Quarter of 2007 alone.

  70. Sidecutter says:

    @shadow735: First of all, you’ve been flagged. Your comment is inappropriate to begin with.

    Second, you forgot a category.

    4: Have few or no problems to begin with, have their discounts properly credited from day one, and have little issue getting the few minor problems that occur resolved. Also, get great reception (paying for a reasonable phone, and not taking the POS freebie, plays a part in this – EVERY phone receives differently, and the cheap toss-aways are the worst), and always have. Everywhere they ever go and the entire path between those places, which cover more than half the country. The only exceptions being inside structures that interfere with signals in general.

  71. nickbob says:

    In late ’07, my girlfriend had her contract extended after she called to terminate one of her lines. They initially refused to cancel the extension, but she didn’t back down. They finally admitted that the line used to extend the contract (the one that had been inactive for 6 months), could not possibly have ordered the extension. After that they also rebated the charge to change plans.

  72. teshika33 says:

    @shadow735: I agree with you Shadow. I have not had any problems with Verizonwireless compared to the constant nightmares with Sprint. I do not regret switched back to Verizonwireless after Sprint has given me nothing but grief and the customer service went downhill really quickly.

  73. racqueteer says:

    What Dan Hesse said was true about Sprint. I worked under Forsee, who said less than two years ago (I paraphrase) that Sprint AS A COMPANY decided NOT to compete on customer service or price, but only on “superior products and services.”

    Hesse and Sprint are now competing on customer service AND price. and you may not see it right away, but if Sprint can hold off being taken over, Sprint’s gonna be one of the biggest turnaround stories of 2009. In 2010, Hesse will be on a lot of “best CEO” lists.

  74. sdoggie says:

    I requested to add a 3rd phone for infrequent use. After promises to the contrary I found this phone was costing me $80 per month (new plan/new contract). In addition, over a period of several months, more services were added to the line costing me $15 or so more per month. Many Many calls, hang ups, waiting, inadequate service reps, they refused to reverse the charges fraudulently added to my account.

    After several years with Sprint, I told them I had to cancel, because they could not promise no unauthorizes changes to my account in the future. Then I found out they were trying to get me to pay an early termination fee on the phone they overcharged me for by upwards of $1000 in about a year service. They had promised this would not change my contract when ordering the phone.

    I spent many calls over 3 months in early 2008 to reolve this with Customer Retntion. They promised on 2 ocassions to zero my account and let me go, each call took over an hour to make. Yet, there apparently was no note in the system when the bills started coming and I attempted to escalate to management. I was hung up on and ignored. Then they sent the bill to collections. I cannot in good conscious pay them more money when the reason I had to leave them was because of blithe disregard for law and ethical behavior in the mgmt of my account.