Archive for the ‘Sprint CEO Dan Hesse Speaks About Customer Service’ Category

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse Speaks About Customer Service

February 26, 2008

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Sprint Nextel’s new CEO Dan Hesse for about 20 minutes for my story “Sprint’s Wake-Up Call.” Hesse, an industry veteran who most recently ran the local phone company Embarq, has vowed to make customer service the top priority of the company. That in itself is a huge philosophical shift at Sprint Nextel that should bear fruit. Another major shift: “We are shifting investment from customer acquisition to retention,” says Hesse.

But Hesse must make sure that his message is heard, from the top layers of management all the way down in the call center trenches. Part of the problem of Sprint Nextel is that there’s been a huge disconnect between management and the field over customer service strategy and execution. One result of that dropped call: Even though Sprint Nextel maintained policies barring contract extensions without customer consent, government officials and lawyers have alleged that many Sprint Nextel customers still had their contract extended unknowingly. Here is an edited transcript of the interview in which Hesse speaks in detail about customer service for the first time since taking over the helm at Sprint Nextel last December.

What went wrong? Why did it get so bad?
I don’t have a history here. I came and took a look at customer satisfaction scores and churn. And I have just focused on improving it.

What did you learn?

The churn numbers were way too high and the customer satisfaction numbers were way too low.

How are you changing the way you run the business to improve customer service?
It is cultural. We have an operations review every week. When I walked into my first meeting customer service was not on the agenda. We weren’t talking about the customer when I first joined. The first team meeting agenda was already set. The second meeting after January 1 was reordered.

It’s also symbolic to the entire senior team. Every meeting starts with that. We started the practice at second ops team meeting. Also, my first visit outside of the headquarters was to a call center in Charlotte. I spent a day jacking in to calls.

How did that go?
It was eye-opening to me. You get to listen to the kinds of issues are reps deal with.

HOW TO BUY CREATIVE CAPITAL: To pre-order Creative Capital and get a 34% discount, click here and go to Amazon

What else are you doing to turn around the company?
I have to simplify our business. There’s an opportunity to improve our systems, with fewer rate plans and options.

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.

What’s working? What’s not working?
We have instituted self-managed teams. We’re focused on customer lifetime value as a company. I am making investments in customer care. We already have increased investment in customer service. Added more seats in call centers. We put service people in our retail stores. It is a significant investment. We are shifting investment from customer acquisition to retention.

Creating a great experience is very positive from a shareholder point of view. That’s how you create a great brand. We don’t look at this as a cost anymore. Great customer service drives profitability.

HOW TO BUY CREATIVE CAPITAL: To pre-order Creative Capital and get a 34% discount, click here and go to Amazon