Sprint Customer's Number Gets Ported Without Authorization; Email To Executives Gets It Back

Robb spent almost two and half hours with Sprint CSRs trying to find out why his phone had stopped working, and eventually he was told that it had been ported to AT&T, and that it would “take 4-5 days to try and get this number back if at all.” Fortunately, he was able to send the following email directly to their executives and got the matter cleared up the next day.

Imagine my surprise today when I was unable to contact my pregnant wife utilizing my Sprint cell phone.
 
I immediately called customer service when unable to make calls and spent a total of 145 minutes trying to resolve the problem. Along the way my call was misrouted to the wrong billing system (whatever that means), I was transferred to afterhours numbers, I was hung up on, I talked to three reps who had no grasp of the English language and one who insisted it was an equipment issue even when I told her it had been established that somehow my number had been ported without my consent or confirmation. You can only guess how much fun it is to have someone demand to troubleshoot an problem when it had already been done and demands to do it all over again only to have your call routed the wrong way again. Imagine being recently unemployed leaving applications for work across the last week with a number which is suddenly “dead”. Better yet imagine the problem if my wife went into labor or had an accident and had no way of contacting me because for 4 hours my phone was dead except for some random California number was assigned to my account (I live in Oregon).
 
After I was finally handed off to Operator #77303 she did some checking, my number had been indeed ported out to AT&T to no one in particular it was just there. She informed me that not only would it take 4-5 days to try and get this number back if at all. She wouldn’t even try and answer me when I asked what would happen if AT&T was to use my number. She gave me a “temporary” number which would be great except for the potential job prospects which no longer have my number.
 
The fact this can happen at no worse time seems to be my luck, the fact my contract was just renewed is ironic as I had read Mr. Hesse was going to turn things around and make Sprint a company that takes care of business- I actually believed what I read.
 
The fact that my number could be taken away in an instant but won’t return for a week (if even at all) is disturbing. I would appreciate it if someone would contact me and restore my faith in my decision to remain solely a Sprint customer and hopefully return my limbo ported number back to me safe and sound. It’s not the end of the world but when all the events fall into place like they have for me it falls very close.
 
Thank you for your time
Robert

Today we received this follow up email from Robb:

Well this morning I was contacted by the executive office and basically within the hour my old number was back and functioning. They had no clue why it had been ported other than possibly someone entered another number wrong. If it wasn’t for my executive email contacts gleaned from you site I would probably be still waiting days later. Your site has made me a happy man, I can only hope someone else with similar problems is helped down the line to cut through the red tape!
 
Many Thanks!
Robert

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ceokhan says:

    Yup… Welcome to the worst customer service.. numerous times i have been charged EXTRA on my sprint bill

  2. dweebster says:

    @ceokhan:

    Yeah, they’re good at that, and the resolution process is about the same as he described above (‘spent a total of 145 minutes trying to resolve the problem. Along the way my call was misrouted to the wrong billing system (whatever that means), I was transferred to afterhours numbers, I was hung up on, I talked to three reps who had no grasp of the English language and one who insisted it was an equipment issue’)… Sprint’s Executive Team, when I’ve had to engage them, has been useful and fari – but the OP’s description of the duck pond treatment seems about par for the course. Though 145 minutes isn’t much compared to the total of about 10-12 hours I went through hell when they were trying to collect unowed money due to their screwup, so perhaps things are better now…

    Retention Department seems to be the only place staffed with Reps with any training and/or appropriate access to be able to help a customer, sad but true. And even they manage to screw things up more often than fix them. Wierd how Sprint is set up to screw you over until you call in to quit them – THEN you reach people who have the authority to fix a simple damn problem…

  3. x40sw0n says:

    @dweebster: This sort of thing has now become commonplace; the only employees that are usually in the same country (or at least continent) are the ones in retention. They are the last line of defense so they are trained and empowered, though usually bitter and overworked.

    My own office has a group that are pretty much the same; the first tier of phone people can barely tie their shoes, but the retention people work directly under the Director. Due to the way business is done in America these days, this sort of organization has become commonplace. Especially in places where the contracts are lock-ins, (ours are typically 5 year with auto renewal for another 5 years) this is rampant because it’s the only way to keep your customers without investing in employees (and lord knows there isn’t very many companies interested in THAT these days). Everyone wants to cut costs, outsource, and run skeleton crews until everyone leaves or quits so they can hire cheaper employees.

  4. Heh, he should have just called up AT&T and completed the “porting” process. Probably would have gotten faster results. :D

  5. fluiddruid says:

    @x40sw0n: Sorry, but this is wrong. Sprint has lots — I mean hundreds — of call centers in the US, mostly through outsourcers. I worked for one.

    The problem isn’t nationality, it’s training. Sprint hires outsourcers to save money. Those outsourcing companies only care about getting Sprint’s money for the least amount of effort. It’s literally putting your account in the hands of the lowest bidder.

    In my experience, these outsourcers sell Sprint (and many other companies) on unrealistic training and recruiting goals. “Yes, in our market, we absolutely can hire people for $10 an hour without benefits to do second level technical support and train them in a week!”

    Sprint wanted better quality out of our center all the time, but when it came down to it, we were given chance after chance. In the meantime, the center itself focused most of its energy on reducing call time. Sure, quality was part of performance – but our quality assurance staff had high turnover, too, and generally had no idea if the agents had properly fixed the problem or completely futzed the account.

    If Sprint wants to fix this problem, they need to get into these centers and increase the expectations. They shouldn’t permit them to pre-emptively decide to take away training time and support staff. These should be in the contract.

  6. mayrc87 says:

    I have had many problems with Sprint. Just last week I spent 4 hours without my phone because somehow I haven’t payed my bill since February even though when I called the CSR told me I was never late and they had my payments on their system. Go figure.

  7. donTHEd says:

    This sounds like somebody at AT&T screwed up. Somebody probably mistyped his number during the porting. Somewhere on another blog some poor sap is complaining about how AT&T ported the wrong number. The problem is, while they say you must verify with the last four of your social and an account number, truth be told they dont need any of that stuff to do a port.

  8. Skellbasher says:

    Not that I want to defend Sprint here, but this kind of thing happens all the time in telecommunications.

    There’s a lot of fault to go around here. Sprint should not have released the number to AT&T without enough information to identify the actual user of the number; just fat fingering the number shouldn’t be enough to get it ported.

    The Sprint CSR shouldn’t have assumed a 4-5 day timeframe, no implied that your number was lost forever. Problems like this are correctable, sometimes quickly, sometimes not so much.

    Depending on the carriers involved, reversing an incorrect LNP can in fact be a nightmare. It’s not uncommon that a number can be incorrectly ported, and take days to get reversed because the telcos involved can’t get their act together. From my experience, it’s usually a switch tech who screwed up a translation in a phone switch, or didn’t document something which makes things difficult to correct.

    It’s a systemic problem with the number porting system, not really limited to wireless carriers. Although wireless LNP is relatively new when compared to wireline, the system has never worked well, and things like this are all too common.

    For what it’s worth, I think Sprint did a good job of it if they were able to have your number pulled back the next morning.

    To the OP: I’d keep a close eye on things for a while. In my experience with Sprint/Embarq, they’ve never released a number for porting without dead nuts documentation, never just with a phone number. While the wireless side may be different, it really shouldn’t be.

    I’d stay in touch with that rep from exec CS and have them do more investigation on the circumstances of this port. If it’s someone screwing with you or identify theft, it could happen again anytime because of how the LNP process works.

  9. dragonfire81 says:

    This is not an isolated incident. In my time at Sprint I took FIVE, yes FIVE calls from customers with identical situations.

  10. Astos says:

    2.5 hours to find out why a phone was not working???

    With shocking service like that, I’d stay at AT&T and thank Sprint for switching me over.

    Astos Green lasers rulz

  11. bben46 says:

    The company I work for charges $125 per hour for my work. (Thats not what I get though) If there was some way we could back charge these screwed up customer service groups, not just in telecommunications but any, these kind of mistakes would largely go away. As long as its cheaper for them to tolerate this kind of sloppy customer service it will continue.

  12. . says:

    I’ve used ATT, I now use Sprint. Hey, to a certain extent they both suck. I have had to get on the phone for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour or so to settle a billing issue with Sprint. The problems have all been due to Sprint screwing up.

    But…(knock on wood), the service lately is generally okay, the billing is USUALLY correct, and I’m getting a pretty good price for a family plan (4 phones). I’d change if I knew for a fact somebody else would be better ALL THE TIME. Is that provider out there?

  13. donTHEd says:

    @SkyKing:

    Nope

  14. jenorth says:

    In may of 2006, I added my son to my sprint plan. I wasn’t quite sure how much it was going to cost me at the time, because every bill just kept getting higher and higher. After the 4th month, I called customer service and had them shut off every function except incoming and out going calls. Yet, every month, I kept seeing add ons for application charges. Every month I called to ask about them. Never got a straight answer from them, until I called the NYS attorney generals office and had them do the research. Seems that Sprint was billing me for TV, Radio, Web, and all sorts of applications that didn’t exist because the Phones did not have the ability to access them. Remember I had them ALL turned off after my 3rd 300 dollar bill.
    Sprint, finally removed them from the billings and kindly offered me a 5 dollar per application rebate.
    Really, after they had soaked me every month for almost 9 months.

  15. jenorth says:

    Sprint <– part two
    I just added my second son to my plan in December of 2007. New phones, new plans!
    1st bill was over 340.. second was 360
    third one was just over 340 again.
    Sprint claims that my new plans didn’t include the texting option, and they were trying to bill me over 160 per month extra for text messages.
    Nice try, But I had my plan in writing.
    Texting is ONLY 10 bucks a month on the plan, NOT 160.
    No rebates in sight. No refunds.
    Now my bills are under 180 for the three phones, but like always, they screwed me out of 450 to get there.
    Here we go again !!

  16. donTHEd says:

    @jenorth:

    Call customer service, and choose option four. Tell them how disappointed you are that they are screwing you, and that you see no other option at this point than to cut your losses and cancel. You’ll get your credit.

  17. jozhua says:

    What is funny about LNP(local number portability) is that ANY carrier can port a number without permission. They put in a request with NPAC saying they want to port a number on a certain date. The losing carrier is supposed to acknowledge the request but they do not have to. In fact, after the port request has been pending for at least 3 business days, the gaining carrier is allowed to take the number without authorization. If the gaining carrier fat-fingered the number, the losing carrier would only know that if they specifically went to query NPAC to see if there were any pending LNP requests for said number. So a lot of times when this happens the losing carrier will never even know until the customer is down.

    But there are many different scenerios that could’ve caused this so who knows.

  18. spidra says:

    Um…how come you guys no longer credit the photos you use and link back to the original?

    [www.flickr.com]

  19. elf6c says:

    I have Sprint, and must be the only customer without any issues after 3+ years.

    Still, once the 3G Iphone is out, I will be highly tempted to stray (even though AT&T is just as bad).

  20. vancedecker says:

    @elf6c: Don’t be a dumbass! Reality is not made up of things that just happen to you.

    I told my friend how I was screwed out of unlimited text messaging. Now half a year later, he upgraded his own phone, after specifically asking if doing so would change anything, and guess what, no more unlimited text messaging for him, it’s now $15 extra a month.

    So go ahead, don’t listen, get screwed, but at this point, it’s your own fault.

  21. Dyscord says:

    The 4-6 days is a canned response while the number gets escalated to the tech team. However, it shouldn’t have been done in the first place because the first thing that the tech team does when they see it is to send the case back to the NPC agents saying that they can’t force the other carrier to bring the number back into sprint.

    Yet another lie it seems.