Hey customer, thanks for calling. You are fired!

Sometimes the stupidity of Corporate America stuns me.

Sprint recently sent out a batch of letters to their own customers.  The gist of the letter is that these customers have called Customer Service about billing or other issues too often, so Sprint is firing them.

What I love most about this letter is the ending


You're fired because you call too much.  But if you have any questions — call us!!  And does anyone else see the oxymoron of calling it the Customer CARE department?

So, if you've been looking for a way to break your Sprint contract so you can grab a new iPhone, it looks like you just need to give Sprint a call.  Or 10.

If you were the VP of Marketing for Sprint and the powers that be came to you with this decision…what would you have said?  If they demanded the customers be terminated, how would you have recommended it be handled?

Update:  Considering this was about less than 1,000 customers, now how badly do you think they handled it?

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9 comments on “Hey customer, thanks for calling. You are fired!

  1. Douglas Karr says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with a company firing customers. The key question is, “How does Sprint reward those customers who do not call at all?”

    Can you hear a pin drop? Yea, me too!

  2. Just imagine this carried over to a Sprint blog:

    “We’re sorry, but you’ve been commenting too much. We’re disabling your RSS reader and putting in a 77-character CAPTCHA everytime you show up on our blog. But if you have any questions, please leave a comment…”

  3. Cam,

    I know, it’s staggering. Like Doug, I’m not necessarily saying that firing the customers was a bad plan. But man, did they botch the execution.

    How would you have handled it, if the customers had to go?


  4. Doug,

    You’re right — they may be perfectly justified in firing them. But clearly they did not give a lot of thought to the backlash of their methodology.

    How would you have handled it, if you were Sprint’s CMO?


  5. Steve,

    LOL! The whole thing is so absurd and poorly thought out it’s amazing.

    It also speaks loud and clear that the game has changed. The blogosphere is going to carry this story far and wide.

    Sprint’s troubles have just begun on this one, I think.


  6. The funny part is, it will cost them a lot more money to repair their image than it would have cost them to keep the customers!

    I’m surprised that Sprint decided to fire their customers. So many companies consider customer service, and customers who call in with problems, as something that should be discouraged or given very low priority. They think about how to stop people from calling, and how to automate the process as much as possible.

    Is that the best way though? What if companies were to encourage calls to customer service lines? Yes, customers who call frequently can be irritating, but they often have useful feedback that Sprint could use to make their company more competitive. Additionally, every time a customer calls, a company has a chance to wow them with their service and caring in fixing the problem.

    If they were smart, Sprint would consider customer calls and complaints to be opportunities.

    To me, however, this situation says that Sprint is not open to improvements that create a better experience for their customers.

  7. Drew,
    I’m behind on my reading and just saw this post! The timing is also remarkable by Sprint given how much positive news (iPhone) other carriers are getting. Might not have been the brightest move – especially considering the power of social media these days.

  8. Katie,

    I think it says several things about Sprint.

    They are internally operating in silos. I don’t care how dumb their marketing person is, no marketing person is THAT dumb.

    They don’t understand the power and reach of social media. Or they wouldn’t have put it in writing.

    They didn’t do the math. Even if there are 1,000 customers who are annoying and call on a regular basis — compared to the client base as a whole, it’s a gnat of a problem and they shot at it with an elephant’s gun.


  9. Patrick,

    That’s the part that astonishes me. Didn’t someone in the meeeting say “what if the media or the bloggers get a hold of this letter?”

    If not, I bet it gets asked at the next meeting.


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