Sprint fires customers.

I actually had something else scheduled for today’s post, but I’ve postponed it until tomorrow. Over the last couple of days, I have been reading about how Sprint has fired a thousand or so customers.

I remember it wasn’t that long ago (mid-December 2006) when Justin Kitch of Homestead wrote about how he occasionally fired customers. It caused a stir on digg and some of the other social news type sites. How could a company fire a customer?  According to the digg community and many others – it was outrageous. Now Sprint does it to 1,000 people and gets a whole bunch of negative press about it as well.

From a business perspective, it makes sense at first to fire 1,000 customers who are using a lot of resources. It is a great short term move. Long term? It’s terrible. Sprint has really aggravated 1,000 of its most vocal customers and you can be sure they are going to talk about it.

People who call customer service once (or more) per day are usually pretty vocal. They are hard/impossible to please, often impatient, and often rude. They don’t hesitate to blog about every little thing that went wrong and write you multiple letters or emails about it. They make sure to tell their friends about how they have signed their life way to this terrible carrier who is entirely incompetent. Basically, they aren’t the type of folks you want to fire.

The letter that Sprint sent out is here (credit: CNET). The company is relatively friendly and does offer to zero out any outstanding bills and help you with your move, but they don’t give much notice. A couple of days is pretty optimistic and if Sprint has been supporting these customers for months/years, another week or two wouldn’t make a difference.

Sprint also fired customers who used too much roaming. This is something that basically any major carrier can do to you, but I think Sprint is the most recent one to do it on a large scale. The letter they sent to customers who used too many roaming minutes is here (also credit to CNET).

Overall, I think Sprint will regret this move. It may help in the short term, but in the long term, customers are going to be mad and unless Sprint has made some major changes, they will continue to find new customers that are get angry. The company is not known for its great customer service and hasn’t been doing that well.

When you go into business, you have to be prepared for unhappy customers. They will always be there, and it is just a matter of how you deal with them that makes the difference.

What Sprint should have done? They should have sent a letter to customers saying they call a lot and might not like Sprint, which is fine. Sprint should have offered to zero out the bill, let them port their number, etc. and move to a new carrier. If Sprint was really motivated to get rid of the customer, it could have even matched the price or something. Many would leave and Sprint wouldn’t get nearly as much bad press and bad word of mouth.

For those that are interested, I’ve written a three part series on firing your customers.

  1. Part 1 – Introduction and about internal priorities (staff before customers, etc.)
  2. Part 2 – Pros and cons to firing customers. What to include in the notice.
  3. Part 3 – Sample letter for firing customers.

6 Responses to “Sprint fires customers.”

  1. CustomersAreAlways said:

    Jul 10, 07 at 5:45 pm

    Could Sprint Be The Modern Day Dinosaur?…

    Sprint has really caused a stir these past few days!  I checked the news this morning and there were hundreds of news sources talking about the firing of their customers. I then did a blogsearch for Sprint and came up……

  2. Return Customer said:

    Jul 16, 07 at 11:39 am

    Ethical Obligations to Care for Customers…

    Businesses have an ethical and moral obligation to meet their responsibilities and care for customers.
    Recent news reports have mentioned phone company Sprint is firing 1000 high maintenance customers. While that may be a sad tale, the customers will p…

  3. Service Untitled » Huge Ticket IDs - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 18, 07 at 2:49 pm

    […] Is it really necessary to have a ticket or reference number where each person on the planet could contact LL Bean about 1.6 quadrillion times (not an exaggeration) and still have a unique ticket ID. If each person lives 80 years, to get the 1.6 quadrillion times number, they would have to contact LL Bean about 39 million times a second. That probably makes those Sprint customers look like low mantainence. […]

  4. Aspect Contact Center: Unplugged Blog » Blog Archive » Firing Customers Can Set A Bad Precedence said:

    Aug 22, 07 at 11:16 am

    […] A leading wireless services provider recently “fired” some of its customers, news that was a little surprising to me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that segmenting customers is a good practice, but firing customers outright can quickly become a very slippery slope. […]

  5. Joey Regis said:

    Nov 03, 08 at 2:45 am

    I work for sprint as finance, i observed a lot of erroneous billing and some unexplain billing charges, im tired making an adjustment to out customers billing disputes, if you as client and you were been charge and with out knowing the charges and your still paying for it hahaha then your lost, sprint has very good service to offer for network but lousy billing and ridicolous charges.

  6. joey regis said:

    Jan 20, 09 at 9:20 pm

    Is your customer always right?
    While I think it is a good sentiment that states, “The customer is always right,” I think that we have to be very careful. If the customer is a drain on resources, cause problems or otherwise causes us to lose money, then the customer may not be right. We can’t be afraid to politely ask the customers to leave that we can not make happy… there are plenty of people that you can’t make happy. You have to remember above all that you can’t be everything to everyone. If you try, you’ll end up being nothing to noone

    …] it is time to understand that customer may not be right at all the times. It is time to consider a way to fire a customer. If customer is vocal and rude, it is pretty easy to gently encourage that customer to go rather than to kept them […]