Sprint (US telecomms provider) sacks customers who complain

Seth Godin notes that Sprint ( a US broadband/telecomms company) is terminating the contracts of customers who call customer service with problems too frequently.

Basically, those who call in frequently have a month’s notice, don’t have to pay their balance and get ported for free to another provider.

The debate boils down to:

  • These 1,000 customers will “never be happy” with Sprint, and are probably costing more to service than they are generating in revenue, so Sprint is justified (and should have sacked them sooner).
  • These 1,000 customers are already brand saboteurs, expensive ones, so how much worse can they hurt your brand? 
  • On the other hand, what if you could transform these consumers into happy customers? Hiistory suggests that converted unbelievers make the most powerful fanatics.
  • And on the apocryphal third hand, for those who just scan the news or the soundbyte – Sprint = the company that doesn’t give a sh*t.  How bad is that for your brand?

Seth boils my entire profession into a beautiful sound byte:  “Hire nice people and attract satisfiable, gabby customers. Why not?”  He goes further and says why not fire the customers who you *do* satisfy and don’t evangelise for you?

 The same could be said to be true for employees and the old management consultant mantra — “If you can’t change your people, change your people.”

Mathematically, and from a short-term commercial perspective, I have to say Godin is right.  Negative customers who are “actively” negative will almost always spread more discord and word of mouth mayhem than happy customers who expect you to deliver on your promise as a matter of course and will only evangelise if you go the extra mile for them.

From a long term commercial perspective … he may also be right.  I suppose it depends on the amount of goodwill the Sprint brand has to “trade off” … which alas looks like it’s not much (about 50% satisfaction).

Seth finally adds that Sprint should get serious about satisfying its other customers, rather than firing the tiny few who are problematic.

Maybe we are moving ever more swiftly into CFO-led brand management.  Could that possibly be a good thing?


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