Friday, June 08, 2007

Serving The Customer...or not.

After eight years with Sprint cell service I am still asked to “renew” a two-year contract at every single change to the plan or hardware on any of the three phones under my name with Sprint. I consider this a disturbing racket, and will no longer be manipulated by the strong-arm tactics to stay with their company. I was about to request my husband’s new company discount on our account, but now I am counting the days to contract-expiration and will happily migrate to Cingular as soon as possible (say "Hullo!" dear iPhone!).

I am blogging my disappointment here & on epinions, because I would hate to see others get lost in the quagmire my family & I have experienced.

I have attempted to resolve these issues both in-store and over the phone but do not have the time to continue on hold & transfers to find satisfaction to what should be a simply issue. As soon as our contracts are over we going to run & never look back.

If you are intrigued, here is the letter I wrote to the CEO of Sprint:

Sprint Nextel

Gary D. Forsee - President, CEO, Director
2001 Edmund Halley Drive
Reston, VA 20191
703-433-4000

June 7, 2007

Dear Mr. Forsee:

I thought you would like to understand why Sprint’s Customer Service has lost an eight-year customer. I have recently spent untold hours of wasted time (Sprint’s and mine) with no resolution whatsoever to what could be a simple situation. It is absolutely astounding to me that in today’s high-tech free-market economy with a dozen mobile phone options that Sprint has given up trying to retain loyal customers. With a decade of Marketing experience, I understand the value of retention.

I am an exhausted Sprint PCS loyalist (ex-loyalist) on monthly automatic payments who is incredibly disillusioned since the Nextel merger. I have been with Sprint since 1999 and have noticed a marked difference in customer service in the past year or two—it is disappointing to say the least. I spent more than $X last year with three phones on one account, and my parents have an additional account with 2 phones—so I would think that the $X+ we pay Sprint annually might account for some care in this matter, but it seems to me that Sprint no longer acknowledges, nor rewards, loyal customers. Why should we stay, when other companies offer better products, software, prices & service? Those are the four things I consider when purchasing a cell phone contract. Now, we remain only because your cancellation penalties are hand-cuffed to our contracts.

Here’s the breakdown: I added my mother-in-law, a widow who is not technically savvy, to our account several years ago for the $9.99 add-on fee. I have called Sprint multiple times to authorize her to make changes to her account (upgrade software or hardware) both in-person, and over the phone, and have been assured that she has such authority, but she has continued to be hassled each time she has tried to get customer service. She has our account password, and should have equal authority to my husband or me in being able to adjust her account. In 2006 she earned your standard $150 credit towards a new phone. Because she has been having so many difficulties with roaming on her phone, and hardware difficulties with her headset port, etc., she has been frustrated with three of the four mobile carrier factors I mentioned above—customer service, hardware and software. I feel like you & we are holding her hostage for her ten-plus bucks a month, because it is only price that keeps her on this plan.

Because of her difficulties with the store in Cocoa, Florida and its surrounding area, I went in with her on April 11, 2007 when we were recently vacationing there (we live in Virginia). I asked to get her a new phone, because her current one was not working properly. The gentleman behind the counter did not offer to see if there was something he could do to fix the current phone (didn’t check it for software updates or even ask why it wasn’t working), he just got us a new phone. He transfered her number, which included my frustratingly repeating our information multiple times, and then he handed me a paper to sign, adding an additional two years to her existing contract. I refused, saying that I had called in advance and been assured that she would not be required to renew, due to mitigating circumstances of previous bad customer service, our loyalty and her personal situation. He just towed the company line, refusing to call Corporate to confirm my claim, and repeated that the only way we could upgrade her phone was to agree to two more years. Together we tore up the contract and reversed the whole process—so she walked out with a less than fully-operational antiquated phone in hand and no new contract. I walked out enraged with the service we had received and the lack of assistance with her issues. Even after we agreed to cancel the upgrade he did not attempt to amend the situation, nor apologize for the inconvenience. In fact, not many people at Sprint seem to understand the concept of an apology.

Just last week I received a “confirmation letter” in the mail (it had been delayed because my address has not been updated in your system for some unknown reason), regarding changes made to her account on April 11th. Let me restate: There were no changes made to her account on April 11th. NONE! There was just a waste of my children’s, my mother-in-law’s, my husband’s and my time as we attempted to accomplish what could have been a simple to-do on our list for the day. I called today, June 6th, to assure that her account had not been adjusted to a new contract date and got an unbelievable run-around. I waited for 20 minutes on hold before I got a customer service representative, Joel. Due to his heavy accent, I had to continually ask him to slow down and repeat himself, and also had to ask him to stop using Sprint terminology with me (“access active contracts…access for line has been expired…”), and speak to me as a common customer. Knowing my long history with Sprint and the complication of the issue, I requested a supervisor’s help from the outset. I was horribly delayed and told that we had a new contract as of 4/11/07, but that there were notes that “the old contract will be honored.” Honored toward what purpose? There were no changes to the account, so what “honoring” of a contract is being upheld? It is just a continuation of the existing contract of 321-720-0686, instated on June 23, 2006, since no changes were made on April 11th!!

“Joel” put me on silent hold twice. A seven-minute silent hold certainly feels like disconnection, and the second time it was! So, after my original 20 minute hold, 15 minutes of trying to explain my situation to him and insisting that he and I would both be best served by him handing me off to a supervisor, one lengthy hold and then a second silent hold, I was disconnected. Meaning: I had to RE-CALL Sprint and get in the 20-minute queue again!! This time I reached CSR “Shauna,” with a faint connection—and, again, a thick accent. Why on earth do you put people on the phone to give verbal customer assistance who cannot speak clearly to your customers? Repeating myself, asking them to repeat themselves…it is hellacious disrespect to your customers to force such a wringing of communication! AND, I might add, it lengthens every call—a point which I know, as one with a professional telecom background, is a big bottom-dollar consideration.

I explained to Shauna, very patiently, that I had just been dropped from a 45-minute call, that Joel was about to put me on with a supervisor, that I would not like to repeat my testimony, but would advise that she elevate my call to a supervisor immediately and spare us both the time & grief of my reiterating the situation—especially since my two young children had now been waiting patiently for me for nearly an hour. Still, she kept me on for ten (wasted) minutes, attempting to “fix” my problem only by asking me the same questions and telling me the same things Joel had said (didn’t he note this in my call log?). Finally, I was put on hold—I asked her to please not make it silent, so I wouldn’t feel abandoned again—and connected to “Claire,” another individual with an identical accent to Shauna.

Claire began by asking me what she could do for me—didn’t Shauna explain to you what I am asking for? Yes, I see that you want to get a new phone but will not renew your contract…we cannot do that.

Here is what I want—I want Sprint to ship a new phone to my mother in law immediately. I do not want to renew her contract ever again, but she deserves to have a functional phone for the remainder of her life with Sprint! OR: I would like for her to be released from her contract without penalty. It is impossible for me to manage her portion of my account from a distance since Sprint is making no efforts to assist. I want it to be simple and I want to stop wasting my precious time talking to “Customer Service.” I told Claire that she knows as well as I do that Supervisors have the authority to override standard policy to satisfy a customer; I don’t know how long she has been with Sprint, but I have been with them for longer than Nextel, and have never experienced these kinds of hurdles in eight years!

There was a time when my husband and I had very expensive PDA phones—the Kyocera brand was causing difficulties for us, and apparently Sprint, too, so when we brought our phones in for repairs, we were each handed a brand new PDA phone, with all of our data transferred. THAT was the way to win a customer! I told everyone to go to Sprint PCS! My late grandfather signed on to our plan, my mother-in-law joined our plan & my parents and sister agreed that Sprint was the way to go. With one act of Excellent Customer Service you won SEVEN accounts from my family. This new type of barricading lost us all and anyone who ever asks us which cell plan we have. What a disappointment.

I regret seeing your company lose its quality standards. Good luck with that.

2 comments:

Jen S. said...

Yikes! Guess we will stay with Verizon!

Don't you just hate when they act like their hands are tied and they can do nothing? We recently cancelled a credit card that gave us very good rewards (money towards groceries) because after faithfully paying for months, my payment was ONE DAY late, and they charged us a $35 late fee. Both my husband and myself spoke to several people and supervisors, giving them an opportunity to show us grace and keep us as customers, and they refused. So we refuse to use a card that is so inflexible with their good customers. Boo! Bad customer service people!!

ModMomMuse said...

Jen,

That is too bad about your cc company. I've been one day late on a card like that & have received grace--same charge, $35, removed. We're with MBNA, now Bank America.

And re: Verizon, I have read plenty of good things about them--sounds like you should stick until you have reason not to!

Thanks for posting!

~Lis