Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Improve The Customer Experience By Terminating The Customer Experience

This story has been all over the place. Sprint is getting rid of customers that call them too much. Here is what Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton said:
"If the average person is calling less than once per month and these people are calling 40 or 50 times more, that takes away from customer service," Singleton said. "Our priority is to improve the customer experience."

Excellent spin. Is this Sprint utilizing a Darwinian approach to customer retention? We know what it costs for companies to attain customers. Now we know what it costs to attain bitchy, cantankerous customers. I haven't been able to find the content of these calls. I've only seen the numbers that Sprint saves by cancelling their service. Were they really just annoying cows?

What made this story interesting to me is that recently I had to deal with Cingular, many times. Cingular has left voicemails on my cell for the last month telling me to contact them. Every time I do, they tell me they don't know why I was contacted. Nothing wrong with the account whatsoever. But every day or so, I'd get another message saying for me to call them. I must have called them 15 times. Would I be a candidate for cancellation if this was Sprint?

It turns out that Cingular, like so many companies, has multiple databases that don't talk nicely to each other. Someone at Cingular had mistakenly put my cell phone number into another customer's data as their home phone. This other person was late on their bill, so when they tried to contact them they accidentally called me. Over and over. This would never have been solved by the brilliant Cingular database technology unless I was lucky enough one day to answer the call before it went to voice mail. At that point they had the other person's data on the screen and we could close the case.

I clearly couldn't be the only person this has happened to with Cingular. How much does this error cost Cingular a year? You would think that if the cost was so much that it forced Sprint to cancel customers that it is substantial. I guess it is OK if it is their technology mistake versus me being a crankypants.

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