An Interview With Sprint CEO Dan Hesse About Customer Service At Sprint

The author of the BuisnessWeek article “Sprint’s Wake-Up Call”, Spencer Ante, has posted his entire interview with Sprint’s new CEO, Dan “At Least I’m Not Gary Forsee” Hesse.

How important is customer service now at Sprint Nextel?
The most important economic driver is churn. Customer service plays such an enormous role in maximizing the customer life. It was very apparent it was the most singular issue. It was very apparent that job one was to improve customer service and reduce churn.

How long will it take to turnaround?
We are beginning to improve customer service already. There’s always a perception lag. We did have problems last summer. There will be a lag when it improves and when the world knows that Sprint’s customer service has improved. First call resolution and average speed of answer are measured. That’s improving right now.

How hard is it going to be?
The customer experience is much more than customer service. It’s retail. Network quality, ease of use of phone. Experience with care reps. There are a lot of things we are focusing on to improve customer service. You will see progress and regular progress. It is very doable. We have the right people in place. We will get it done. I am holding an all-employee Webcast to talk about this tomorrow.

Customer service is job one. This is the number one priority of the company.

More at Spencer’s blog.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse Speaks About Customer Service [Creative Capital]
(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file)

Comments

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  1. mobilene says:

    I’m not encouraged.

  2. gorckat says:

    He doesn’t seem to be “taking it seriously”.

    Pity.

  3. renegadebarista says:

    I’ve been with Nextel since 2002 and saw a huge change in customer service when Sprint took them over, but recently it has started to get a little better. I had a phone that I didn’t want anymore, but was stuck with because of when I had upgraded it. Called in to see how much a new phone would actually cost me and after explaining why I didn’t like the phone they offered to let me upgrade for what a new customer would pay without extending my contract. I took the deal fully expecting them to extend my contract anyways and to my surprise not only did they keep their word and not extend my contract but they also gave me a $15 credit to cover some of the ringers I lost when I upgraded. Hopefully this is going to be the norm now at Sprint/Nextel. We can only hope.

  4. chiieddy says:

    Looking at the photo, he doesn’t strike me as a guy I’d trust with my phone service.

  5. Neurotic1 says:

    …guy looks like a slimeball.

  6. Talk. That’s it. Talk.

    When they walk, lemme know.

    I’m gonna stick with TMob anyway.

  7. A “number one priority”? Seriously? I’m still not convinced that they’re really taking it seriously.

  8. marsneedsrabbits says:

    If the people in the room during the interview had been playing Buzz-word Bingo, someone would have won big time. “economic driver”, “churn”, “job one”, “perception lag”, “maximizing the customer life”.

    He needed to have said this (in plain English): “We failed in the past and it hurt us. We’re striving to do better now and will do better in the future. We have set attainable, measurable goals to improve the quality of service for our valued customers. We want to be the best”.

    Listening to this guy spout off buzz-words from the latest bestseller about being a better manager on the “all-employee Webcast” ought to be classified as hazard pay.

  9. shadow735 says:

    wow they really jumped on this, “web cast Tommorrow” so we will see an improvement when? Good thing I am with Verizon Wireless. I will never leave. If any Sprint customers need sympathy hugs I am giving them away for free.
    Hugs are cool!!

  10. Lyn Never says:

    Reducing time to answer is nice, first call resolution is nice. Until they commit to not penalizing representatives for length of call, all it means is that they’ll status every call as “resolved” whether it is or not. This is something that very few customer service entities understand, and every phone rep knows all too well.

  11. perrymount1 says:

    I work for a company that uses the Sprint air cards. When ever we have to call Sprint tech support for any additional trouble shooting above what we have already done it is a nightmare. We have a “direct support number” that the general public does not have access to. We conference in the associate we are working with because they have the card and will have info we don’t. All cards are registered with a corporate account, but sometimes when the Sprint tech looks at the account they wont help us because we are not the company. Sometimes their speech is less than understandable. They will ask the same questions over and over and want to keep doing the same steps over and over. They will try to blame the laptop or our software for the issue even when the card is not getting a power light or had one and then stopped working. Have been hung up on more times than i can count once the card has been determined to be defective or they get tired of “helping”. I wish we had stuck with verizon. Verizon’s other services might suck but we have NEVER had any problems when calling them for help with air cards. Sorry to get on a rant but Sprint will always be crap. There is NO customer service, just customer dis-service.

  12. chocobo24 says:

    So they are going to increase customer service by pulling reps off the phone to watch a Webcast? That seems somewhat counter-intuitive…especially if this becomes a normal policy.

    Although I guess you’ll have to pull people off the phones to completely retrain them.

  13. TomK says:

    Wow Dan Hesse sounds like an idiot. “Let’s use easily jammable metrics and then put extreme pressure on our underpaid reps working a shitty job they hate to meet them. What could go wrong?”

  14. fdx3k1 says:

    This guy has been successful with 2 different telecom companies and everyone gives him crap because he didn’t instantly fix all the problems. Give it some time and it will get better. I’ve been with Sprint for over 12 years and just recently upgraded 2 phones and added new services and did so with no problems….and the rep actually call me back to let me know that one item couldn’t be added, so they gave me a credit.

  15. Das Kommunist says:

    I love how everyone decides to belittle reps and Sprint for their “poor customer service”. Maybe some people should be on Sprint’s end and see how it really works. Half of the time, people are defended for their actions when believe it or not, it is exagerrated.

    I work for sprint as a trainer in a call center. Trust me, there aren’t scripts, save quotas, sale quotas or ‘easily jammable’ metrics.

    Average handle time has no correlation to First Call resolution by the way. If you were to take these calls, you would see that only 5% of customer base makes these complaints. Most of them are out of the stupidity of the customer who decided that if they didn’t get their way, they’ll throw a fit on the internet and the clueless masses will wave their little banner in rebellion of the company.

    Even before I worked for Sprint, I had their service and I’ve never had a single problem.

    It’s just so fun to listen to these people complain on the internet. Where you can easily manipulate information and spread it around at your whim.

  16. nikalseyn says:

    Nice try in the “let’s see if we can BS then some more” department. All I know is their customer service at the local Saginaw, michigan store is still atrocious with some of the laziest people I have ever run across in a business. These people just don’t seem to give a rip—unless you are someone who just wandered in looking to sign up. Then they are sweet as pie. As soon as my contract is up, I am gone, gone, gone from this company.

  17. MissTic says:

    “Perception lag”. That’s genius!!! In other words: We’re doing the right things, you people just haven’t gotten it yet. Nevermind all of the Consumerist nightmare stories still being published…..

  18. Das Kommunist says:

    @nikalseyn: Now you are comparing apples to oranges. Call-center reps have no control over what the stores do. Half the time, these stores aren’t even corporate. Half the stores who claim to be corporate aren’t..They are owned by Radio Shack.

    It just sounds like some people need to grow up and realize you don’t get what you demand.

    You signed the contract. If you don’t like what it says, don’t sign it. You can’t say “well, I didn’t know that.” It is your responsibility to know what it entails.

    Again, my point has been made that everyone always listens only to the consumer but yet they have no information relating to the corporate side.

    I never defend companies, but when you see the other end of things, you realize that most people who call in have no basic math skills or aren’t getting their way because they want their $75 charge adjusted even though they downloaded 4 MP3′s and a bunch of ringers.

    Suck it up princess. Welcome to the real world of responsibility.

    It’s amazing how people expect a massive turn around in customer service in less than 24 hours. You might want to take business management classes and see how it actually works.

    I’ve met with the VP of Consumer Care and not once did I hear him say “let’s shaft our customers”. Actually, it was more like, let’s help the customers out and make them happy.

  19. W10002 says:

    This guy looks like Kevin Spacey.

  20. Fluffiliscious says:

    “At Least I’m Not Gary Forsee”

    Because Gary Forsee is now the president of the university that I work for making a pretty penny while a moratorium was put on all title reclassifications for the rest of us. We can’t get raises because he’s being paid too much :|

  21. SchecterShredder says:

    Sprint customer service is already starting to improve. I have had to call a couple of times this week and my account was migrated to their new billing system. They calls were answered quick and compitently. Now, if ONLY they could get some inovative handsets in stock.

  22. SchecterShredder says:

    One really big problem I’ve noticed is that the Sprint corp. retail store nearest me is filled with the WORST employees I have seen since Best Buy. They stand around BS’n with each other. They are literally one step above useless. And don’t even get me started on the techs there…I actually saw them make a 14 year old girl cry because they wouldn’t fix or replace her phone (it was just out of the 30 day return window). Luckily, her dad bought her a new phone. True story.

  23. ldavis480 says:

    I’m a Sprint customer and not that this should count for them or against them but up until now I haven’t had a major issue with them. However, the true litmus test for gauging a company’s customer service good will is to measure their response when something goes wrong.

    I did experience issues attempting to recover my rebate when I first joined. Suffice to say that while I did recover some of my rebate money I never was able to acquire the full amount that was promised during the original sale. Original attempts to work things out with customer service people seemed to be met with resistance and “sorry, we’ve lost any paperwork you may have maild us” type responses. C’est la vie.

    The real issue is that there is such little choice these days between common carriers of cell phone service (albeit more than there were in the days of two carry analogue service providers) — that whether there is true competition is dubious.

  24. Xkeeper says:

    First call resolution and average speed of answer are measured. That’s improving right now.

    In short, they now have a “Answer, hang up, mark as resolved” button on their phones.

  25. Neurotic1 says:

    @Red_Dawn: Dude, you’re one of the ones Sprint should fire. You seem to be under the impression that a paying customer should cater to your needs, not vice-versa. Don’t forget, you’re getting paid to spend time on the phone to provide service to paying customers. It’s your job. Customers don’t get paid to waste time on the phone. Have you ever thought that maybe the reason some people are so pissed off by the time they reach you is that because it might be their 3rd, 4th, 5th, or nth attempt to fix something? God forbid your customers might actually want service!

    And several studies by 3rd parties (i.e. Consumer Reports, JD Powers) confirms that Sprint’s service pretty much sucks ass. My personal experience certainly confirms it.

    Your anger should be directed towards your employer for not fostering a more positive work environment and culture. It’s so very obvious that’s what is fundamently lacking at every level. Your comments exemplifies this.

    And you’re jackass CEO seems more inclined to show off his knowledge of current management buzzwords then actually rolling up his sleeves and fixin’ shit.

  26. Das Kommunist says:

    @Neurotic: I completely understand that. I’m not arguing that all the customers are like that, but from my experiences when I used to be an agent, and my current experiences from a management standpoint I see more calls coming in from customers who just hustle the company than customers who have valid complaints.

    When did I say that the customer needs to cater to my needs? I don’t recall that at all. Good attempt at a turnaround.

    I don’t know where you get your information from about call-centers but we do foster a positive environment and culture. As a trainer, I try my damnedest to get our new hires to understand the full importance of customer satisfaction but did you ever think that just sometimes customers ask something ridiculous? It’s always about how horrible a service is, like every company you hear the negative, you never hear the positive.

    It’s true that customers do call in for the Nth time for x issue. It doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of transferring everything to a new billing system.

    Yet, there you go again with the masses as well. To you Gary Forsee = sucks then the split second after Dan Hesse pops in you immediately trash him. With no information whatsoever.

    I’ve been in constant meetings with everyone over the past three months about our CSAT ratings and what needs to be done. It’s not an immediate fix. It’s amazing how every expects absolutely perfect customer service when every person has a different perception of said service.

    Yes, we’re working to get our way up in JD Power rankings, but it doesn’t take a survey from 100% of the customer base, just a small percentage. Just like the amount of customers who have to call into Customer Service. It’s always 3%-5%.

    So, how about you apply at Sprint and jump on the bandwagon of ‘fixing shit’? It’s not as easy as all of you ‘wish I were business experts’ think it is.

  27. jeff275 says:

    Hesse talks about changing the agenda for the January meeting. Wouldn’t that mean they could just barely have begun to make changes now in late February? I have a hard time believing it could happen much faster. So how can they really have been able to measure any changes yet after a max of a couple weeks?

    I can verify that in my copious recent experience (I’ve been on the phone with them almost forty hours in the last two months), it has not improved. In fact it has gotten worse. I have been hung up on at least three times (and yes, I am being very courteous). I finally called the consumerist hotline on Monday and I have given them two days now without a response. I will call and check on the status soon but I am willing to bet that if I did nothing they would drop the issue.

  28. bobblack555 says:

    Sprint flat-out sucks.

    Who on earth still uses them?

  29. dolphinsrule65 says:

    I do and for 3 years and never, ever had any complants about Sprint ever. Never had problems with billing issues, no problems with the phones. I have called from my phone *2 and they picked up right away and were very friendly and nice. So yes there are some of us, maybe not many who are truly satisfied with Sprint.

  30. Captn_Ahab says:

    Red Dawn wrote: “I work for sprint as a trainer in a call center. Trust me, there aren’t scripts, save quotas, sale quotas or ‘easily jammable’ metrics.”

    RD must work directly for Sprint, but not all customer service reps are Sprint employees. Hundreds of them work for an outsource company called ACS. Things are very different there. There are very definitely scripts, and agents must follow them verbatim or else. There are all kinds of quotas, and the place lives on metrics. They also crowd agents into tiny workstations where they have five mouths within six feet of their ears, and they’re all going at once. Not what you’d want to call ideal working conditions.

    Agents with ACS receive three weeks of classroom training before they are moved to what’s called a training bay where they take calls. Agents in the classroom are told they will be paired with an experienced agent to listen to calls for several hours before taking calls on their own. Sometimes that turns out to be a lie and agents are put on the phone immediately on their arrival in training bay. And let me tell you from personal experience with ACS, three weeks in a classroom isn’t nearly enough time to cover everything and get some practice on what an agent should do during a call. Other companies train longer – Verizon and AT&T have five weeks in the classroom (personal experience) and I’ve heard TMobile has eight weeks. ACS is clearly out to get “cheeks on seats” so they can start billing Sprint for the agent’s time, and they really don’t seem to care if the agents are absorbing the material or not. The 20-year-old trainer I had pretty much allowed people to goof off as much as they wanted, only occasionally bringing one or two back in line. It was not an ideal training environment by any stretch of the imagination. By the third week of training, only about half of the remaining class members were even pretending to pay attention. The rest were busy chatting with their neighbors, text messaging, or taking frequent and extended bathroom breaks.

    Once in the training bay, which runs for two weeks before agents go out to the production floor, people found out just how woefully unprepared they were, even if they did pay attention, as they floundered around trying to find out information, often waiting for long times (it always seems long when you’re keeping someone else waiting on the phone, but sometimes it could be five minutes or more) to get help from the support people in the room. And the quality of that help left a lot to be desired. I had one person on the line who was complaining about an early termination fee. He had called about it before, and things were adjusted so he would not have to pay the $200 fee. He was told that, notes in his account confirmed it, and he thought it was resolved. Then someone in the finance department reversed the decision, so he was calling back, wondering why he was being charged after being assured he would not be charged. The trainer I called on for help looked at stuff and agreed with the finance department that regardless of what he had been assured, that was out the window. In other words, Sprint’s word meant nothing and collecting the fee was more important. Fortunately, he then asked to speak to a supervisor, and when I explained the situation, the supervisor promised me the situation would be fixed in the customer’s favor – in other words, since someone had assured him he wouldn’t be charged, he wouldn’t be charged and finance was wrong.

    I was frequently given wrong information or led in the wrong direction in training bay, and after a second incident when a trainer got downright insulting even though she was making wild assumptions about the situation without even looking at any notes, I decided that in spite of my real desire to help customers, Sprint customers wouldn’t be getting help from me. I left at the end of the shift and turned in my badge the next morning.

    Sprint did do one thing that may help customer service from ACS. Starting February 9, the starting pay for agents went from $8/hr. to $10/hr. at ACS. This was entirely Sprint’s doing. ACS would’ve been quite happy paying agents five cents an hour above the Oregon state minimum wage. Now Sprint has to realize that training at ACS needs vast improvemnt so when an agent hits the phones, they’re a little more prepared and don’t flounder around so much. Until more improvements are made, it’s not too realistic to see Sprint climb out of the cellar in the JD Power ratings. It will take a while in any event, but longer without far better training. And it would help if ACS started treating its employees like people instead of statistics.

  31. trunk666 says:

    I use them.
    I USED to work for them (now we are Embarq).
    Telecom is telecom, folks, all sucks balls due to the “first to market” mentality and then ensuing shit storm that follows…..

  32. bgirl1030 says:

    Hesse may promise that things will get better but right now they are HORRIBLE. I have disputed charges on my bill for the past 7 weeks for mobile-to-mobile calls to my best friend. My bill was over $1500 and I still cant get anyone that can understand basic English that will fix the problem. My phone has been cut off 6 times and all they keep doing now is saying they will have someone lookinto it. I e-mailed Robert Johnson last Thursday and all of a sudden I got calls from Reps to help me, but once I faxed bills from the past 3 months, my phone is off again and i havent gotten past square one. I promised Bob I would file a complaint with the FCC and i am keeping my promise!! My mom just died and in the middle of everything I had going on, I had to keep calling customer service over and over trying to get someone that wasn’t stupid to understand what was going on with my bill. the problem eemed easy to fix, but i guess I know where all the D- students went to work. …I do work in accounting for a Federal Government Agency, and while you can get all of the ‘I am so sorry for the inconvience’ from them, most of the time you get passed around, hung up on, lied to and the sad part is some of the lies don’t even sound credible. i was told today when I called that my account has been closed since 2006 and my number was ported out because the person could not understand ENGLISH!!! My password was “hatesprint” and they had the nerve to tell me I had to change it. If a simple problem of adjusting a bill because a customer is being charged for mobile to mobile calls is perplexing you, you don’t deserve to be in business, no matter how bad your call center is. Everyone who knows my situation has learned the horrors of sprint and the ones who have it are leaving the company in droves. I have made it my life’s work to make sure that I spread the news that sprint is a joke. The “manager” that contacted me the other day commented on my letter I sent to Bob Johnson which was addressed to the Commissioner of the FCC and called it war and peace. I will have no peace until I win the war a gainst sprint…ending my contract and moving on to another provider. his e-mail address is bob.johnson@sprint.com I know it workes because he responded and had someone call me. Now If the dummies ever do anything is the question.

  33. Neurotic1 says:

    @Red_Dawn:

    I have a “buzzword” for you that will you will never hear in the dogmatic meetings at your shitty company:
    HUBRIS.

    Go look it up dumbass.

  34. topeka says:

    I work for Sprint. They treat customers and employees badly.

  35. topeka says:

    Captain_Ahab’s post is correct about Sprint.