Dear Mr. Hesse-
Here’s the thing, Dan. (I’m calling you Dan because you invite that in those commercials.) You don’t really answer your e-mail or even read it, so the big thing about making Sprint more user friendly is misleading. I took the time to write you two e-mails and no response. They were good, thoughtful e-mails too.
I’ve been a Sprint customer for a dozen years, through thick and thin. Thick and thin translates as “teenage children”, now pretty much grown, who have managed to drop many phones in train stations, toilets, restaurants and run over or had fall from moving vehicles as many more. We’ve been on a variety of family shared plans and most of the time they’ve been busy racking up outrageous extra charges for things we thought were covered, but-read the small print- they’re not. Ring tones. Messaging. They could TAKE pictures with with their phones but not do anything like share them without additional fees. Now we’re on some new (expensive) family plan that gives us total data services so most of the problem is solved. They just need to stop calling directory assistance.
Right now, I’m “under contract” to Sprint/Nextel. Every time someone in the family needs a new phone or an upgrade, I’m sentenced to another two years. And believe me, it’s hard to get a whole family to go two years without needing another phone. It’s gotten to the point where it feels like I almost make it to probation and then, bam! another two years. This is not good business. People don’t like being held captive. They really resent it. And since it is hard to have contact with a real person when calling Sprint, customers never develop that Stockholm Syndrome thing where they think their captors are the good guys. Claire (my virtual customer service representative), btw, was the worst idea, ever. Claire turned me into a foul-mouthed fishwife. LISTEN BITCH, GIVE ME THE FUCKING OPERATOR, DAMMIT! So, the deal is, as soon as legislation passes that makes it illegal to hold everyone to these awful contracts, people are going to drop you like a bad habit. Even more people (I just read your third quarter report).
Before that happens it would be a great idea if your company found a way to develop some company loyalty. If I thought you were paying attention to my family’s consumer needs, rather than taking advantage of the fact that young adults are distractable and drawn to technological gizmos like magpies to shiny beads, that would be a good start. Also, realize that young adults do not understand the concept of “minutes”, only “unlimited”. It’s not costing you that much more if my child talks 100 minutes or 1000 minutes.
Cut out that nonsense where a person has to go two years on a phone before they can get an upgrade. Put a basic and simple phone in your inventory that families can get anytime, consistently, at a low (replacement) price when phones get lost or broken. Call it the “family replacement phone” or something.
Make phones that say, “I’m sorry. You do not have a service plan that lets you a) call a college friend in Sevilla, Spain for four hours at a stretch, b) download 53 new hot ringtones, c) play video games for 6 hours straight in the back of your band’s tour van.” That’s far better than allowing these activities and then charging enormous, unreasonable per minute amounts. The “account holders” of these family plans would be grateful and beholden to you. If you can have automated voices handling every other aspect of your customer service, you can certainly come up with a phone that triggers such a message before the fact and blocks the activity if it’s not on the plan.
Any time, but especially in this economy, people do not like companies that declare they are user friendly and looking out for the needs of their customers when really, they’re looking at only the profit margin. I understand you have to stay in business but charge the higher prices to responsible adults who earn enough money to pay for things like Blackberrys and Bluetooth while making family plans really functional for families. Around here, where the grownups pay the bill, we use phones that meet our business and social needs. My husband and I each have a Sprint Blackberry. For our children, until they start paying their own phone bills, we need a plan that takes into account the realities of that population rather than one that exploits it. A plan that understands that cell phones drown in the washer and melt in the dryer.
Don’t get me wrong- they’re great kids, doing well in college, building their lives and futures. But they still seem to drop an awful lot of phones. I’ve asked around and so do all their friends. So, my advice, for what it’s worth: rather than telling “analysts that Sprint Nextel plans to work harder to attract new customers during the upcoming holiday season” think about putting the family back in family plan, commensurate with the economy, and keep the customers you have. We need better incentives to stick with you and be loyal to the brand. As it stands now, I’m not a loyal customer but rather an indentured consumer, resenting every minute of it.
Thanks for listening, if you do.