sprint: using social media for good

While on our company's summer promotional tour, we utilized Sprint's mobile USB cards for the majority of our internet connectivity in the van. Fantastic service.

The first day of the tour had us crossing the border to Canada, and of course we utilized our internet cards for the 20 or so hours we spent over the border. To our surprise, we recently received an invoice for the "roaming" charges while in Canada. OVER ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS per card, for less than 24 hours of internet service.

Laughing at the absurdity, I called Sprint customer service. Yes - you've undoubtedly been in this situation yourself before. The sticking to the scripts, the time on hold, the ratcheting up to a supervisor, the sticking to the scripts, the time spent on hold again, etc. The call ended with a supervisor indicating "that's the plan that we agreed to, and the charges were fair."

Not happy with paying $1000/day for internet, I tweeted about the experience, as I prepared a blistering blog post in my head. Here's the awesome part: SPRINT WAS LISTENING. (Not to the blog post in my head. They were monitoring Twitter.)

Justin Goldsborough sent me a tweet, (having seen mine on a Twitter search for the word "Sprint"), asking if everything was taken care of. We connected, I explained our situation, and he brought it to someone's attention.

A day later, I received a call from John Crowdis, from their executive and regulatory services department. Within minutes, John looked at the situation (as a human, without a script or robot decision making tools), and realized this wasn't fair. He reduced the invoice on the spot. To our satisfaction.

That's how you use social media to create customer evangelists. You don't need silly campaigns. You don't need fictional characters tweeting. Just real people, listening, connecting and providing human to human interaction.

Will we use Sprint on next year's tour? You bet.


saweb said...

Me thinks Sprint knew all along that this would happen -- the "piss you off first, make nice later, get free positive PR" strategy.

-Charge you (a branding company who embraces the social web) a bogus amount for service
-let you complain via phone to no avail
-have you tweet it (easier and less destructive than a nasty blog post, and the next logical step in the bitching process)
-then come to your rescue via social media and save the day
-then get positive blog post to be archived/indexed forever showing that Sprint is a Web hero.

Yes, I'm a fan of most conspiracy theories. :) But seriously, wouldn't it be nicer if Sprint realized that the 1K a day charge was bogus from the get-go?

Anonymous said...

My conspiracy theory is much simpler. They gave you a break because of the publicity. The other 99% of people this happened to will continue to get screwed.

Greg March said...

what if your just an average Joe without a huge following, I wonder if Sprint extends the same love.

The real use of social media wouldn't be merely saving the internet celeb money. Will they change this Draconian policy for everyone? That's the test.

I understand not advocating this until you got your bill reduced, (we're not Communists) but now that your square please use your celebrity and go fight for the people!

darryl ohrt said...

I agree with Michael Cohn. It does come down to publicity.

But here's my point: With Twitter, EVERYONE has the ability to get a message out to a large audience, quickly.

Even a Twitter user with a small following and a well timed tweet, could be picked up by a host of other Twitter users, who "retweet" and share the complaint. It could also get the attention of bloggers. (I get at least half of my blog post ideas from Twitter nowadays.) I believe that Twitter is a pretty awesome equalizer in that way.

As to fighting for the people...John Crowdis had indicated to me that he was going to submit a formal request to their tech department to suggest that customers get a text message or email once the account reaches a pre-determined cap.

Which would have been awesome. Had we received notification that we were about to be raped on billing charges, we would have had the opportunity to act differently. That's the RIGHT thing for a communications company to do...to communicate with their customers.

Sure, the request may get lost in their system. It may get traction and take two years for them to implement. But I'd like to believe that John's intentions are real.

So yes - Sprint's customer service system is screwed. It shouldn't require a tweet or a blog post to get real human attention. And sadly, 99% of their customers are likely not Twitter users. But understanding that most large companies suffer from this same issue, perhaps it's the social media users and departments that can begin to make a difference, and finally put an end to poor customer service.

(Reading that last sentence, and realizing it sounds like political speak..."I have a dream. A dream where all Americans can receive great service, regardless of their Tweet abilities...")

JustinG said...

Hey. I work at Sprint and am one of several PR folks who are on Twitter looking to help customers where we can.

Yes, Darryl's post is nice pub for our company, but I don't discriminate when looking for folks to help.

I will be the first to admit that our customer service has been majorly flawed in the past. And we've still got a lot to work on. But I promise you we're working on it and trying to get better.

Today, Chief Service Officer Bob Johnson posted a blog entry on Buzz About Wireless (http://forums.buzzaboutwireless.com/t5/blogs/blogpage/blog-id/CSO_Bob_Johnson_CAM) asking customers for feedback on how we can improve the customer experience. Please take a look and let him know what's on your mind. Your feedback can only help us in the long run.

Also, if you or any Sprint customers you know have service issues in the future, feel free to e-mail me at justin.goldsborough@sprint.com and I'll do what I can to help. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Aw damn. I was looking forward to a scathing blog post! :-)

Unknown said...

I've been a long time Sprint user and for the most part have been satisfied. They do some dumb things sometimes but I find them to be better than the rest.

I actually emailed Dan Hesse: http://www.brandidentityguru.com/wordpress/2008/06/emailing-dan-hesse-at-sprint/

Check it out.

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