Revolving Door: More on Sprint’s Poor Customer Service

So my investigative feature “Sprint’s Wake-up Call” has been burning up the Web. It’s been the most read, emailed and discussed story on for the last four days, with 96 comments and counting. Many thanks to a bunch of bloggers for linking to the story, including the diva blogger herself Arianna Huffington, super-activist site The Consumerist, and the tech mavens at GigaOm and CrunchGear.

Over the next few days, I hope to share more of my reporting and thoughts with readers on this blog and that explains why Sprint Nextel has consistently delivered the worst customer service of the U.S. wireless industry, which arguably means the worst customer in America given that cell phone providers consistently rank at the bottom of industry customer satisfaction surveys.

One theme that did not make it into the final version of the story is the incredible turnover that Sprint Nextel has seen in its management of customer service. Over the last 17 months, four different people have run customer service: Cindy Rock, Timothy E. Kelly, Steve Nielsen and Bob Johnson. Last October, Johnson took over as Chief Service Officer from Nielsen, whose tenure only lasted six months. Rock left the company in 2007, according to her LinkedIn profile, and Kelly was one of three top execs to be let go on January 24, one month after new CEO Dan Hesse took over.

What’s the impact on operations? Well, as one former senior executive told me: “It puts things on pause for three to four months. You can’t be successful. You need to have more stability in an organization.”

When I ran this point by Johnson, he said, “I am in a role that I hope to be in for a long time.” Sprint’s customers can only hope he is right on that count.

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3 Responses to “Revolving Door: More on Sprint’s Poor Customer Service”

  1. George Says:

    I could write a book on my nightmare customer service experience with Sprint.

    I’ll give you the short version:

    1) I Made the mistake of buying a Blackberry from a Sprint telemarketer. I travel extensively, and was in need of a new phone so I was actually glad the guy called. He told me that Sprint was offering a special price with rebates galore. Hey, Sign me up! I purchased the phone using a Visa card. The phone I ordered was the wrong one so I went to the Sprint store to excange it for an upgraded Blackberry World Phone. The store didn’t have one in stock, however the clerk kindly handed me their phone to order it from another department. The clerk then did an exchange using my Visa at the cash register, and I my new phone arrived at my home two days later. Cool.

    2) Since I’m not exactly a tech-savvy phone genius, I returned to the Sprint store to get some help setting up my new Blackberry. They were marginally helpful, however they got me fixed up nonetheless.

    3) I chose the Blackberry World Phone because as I said, I travel extensively. I was leaving for China in a few days and just as I do every month, I dial *3 to pay my Sprint bill. I was a bit shocked when the lovely robo-woman told me that my new balance was $1100.00! As I said, I purchased one phone, exchanged it for another, all on my Visa card. My normal phone bill is around 100.00 per month, and now I’m looking at an $1100.00 phone bill. I called “customer service” immediately to get to the bottom of it.

    Oh my God! I spent two days, and a total of 9 hours on the phone dealing with one idiot after another. In two days, I spoke with 29 different people. I was hung up on, mysteriously disconnected with, put on perma-hold, and treated like dirt by these evil mutants employed by Sprint. I was yelled at, called a liar, threatened, insulted in a half a dozen other ways, and still nobody could figure out why my phone bill was $1100.00.

    Meanwhile, I’ve got only two days to go until I’m on a plane for China, and I’m going through a living hell with Sprint!

    On the third day, I return to the Sprint store to try to resolve the issue. The manager of the store dialed some kind of secret magical number and handed me their phone to speak with some big chief, or the “King of Sprint”, or whatever. The guy was very pleasant, and tried to help me unravel the whole mess. Turns out, I was charged for three phones. They charged my Visa bill, and there were overlapping charges on my Sprint bill. He credited me for part of the damage, however I was told that the credit for $700.00 on my Sprint bill wouldn’t show up until my next montly statement.

    At this point, I was just happy to know that I had a working telephone to take to China, and I was glad to know that the issue was more or less resolved. Nevermind the fact that I was only in the States for a total of four days. Time I could have spent with family or friends was spent dealing with Sprint “customer service”. Had I not been on such a hectic travel schedule, I would have dropped Sprint immediately.

    4) One month later: I return from China, dial *3 to pay my Sprint bill, only to hear robo-woman’s voice telling me that I’m past due for the amount of $700.00. Now, I’ve never been late with paying my Sprint bill. In fact, I usually pay early. I’ve been a loyal Sprint customer for eight years.I didn’t use my phone in China, except to answer annoying messages from Sprint which I was recieving daily.(Apparently, when you have an open dispute with them, they try to annoy you into submission by hounding you to death accross the globe. You can run, but you can’t hide!)

    So once again, rather than go through another two days of degradation trying to resolve anything on the phone with “customer service”, I drive to the Sprint store. During my jet-lagged attempt to get some answers from the guy in the store, I was told that this was somehow my fault because “we told you it would take a month for the credit to show up on your statement”. He also suggested that I pay the bill, even though I don’t owe them money, and wait until yet another month goes by for the billing department to straighten it out. Rather than get violent with the guy, I marched out of there and promtly called “customer service” again to see if I could find some answers.

    Finally, I get someone who isn’t on drugs to speak with. The “supervisor” more or less got it straightened out. It’s been almost three months, and I’m still waiting for that rebate. Never did get that “special offer”. After the mental anguish Sprint put me through, they should give me free phones and free service for life.

    So while I was in in China last month, I was trying to dial information in the US because I needed a rental car upon my return. Since I had no time to figure my new Blackberry out before my trip, I had no idea how to dial 411 from China to get a number for Hertz to make a reservation, so I call Sprint “customer service” to see if someone could tell me how to dial information in the US. I was explaining to the Sprint “customer service” woman on the phone that I was in China trying to reach Hertz Rental Car, and the woman yelled “we are not a travel “service”!, and hung up on me.

    … At least they’re consistent.

    I would drop Sprint, however I’m in China again this month. As grueling as my travel schedule is, I don’t have time to change service right now. I will say that whenever I can take a break, dropping Sprint is high on my
    to-do list!

  2. Spencer Ante Says:

    Wow, George, thanks for sharing your nightmare!

    I thought Sprint’s customer service was on the mend but your story suggests that things are as bad as ever.

    You must love seeing Dan Hesse on those commercials!

  3. David Boehler Says:

    Dear Dan Hesse,

    I would like to receive a return e-mail as my service with your company is
    unbearable as the service has been interrupted several times as well as
    well as my daughter service and also the equipment failure continuously.

    I have also had consistent problems with text, billing issues etc, dont care to go further.

    What i need is my contract to be terminated on my anniversary with
    no penalties as your company has not lived up to your contract to
    give me & my daughter out by the 9th of February.

    Please reply back ASAP or call if it works: (847) 363 5720

    Sincerely & Respectfully

    David J. Boehler

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