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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Service Rant: Sprint Wireless

Some service companies are exceptional at making customers productive resources (Southwest) and some are not. I generally place wireless companies into the latter category.

So when I activated my wife’s new smartphone this week, I was disappointed - though not surprised - at the experience.

My intuitive first act to activate the phone was to turn it on and dial “0”, assuming that the network would recognize that the phone wasn’t active and connect me with an automated service that would help set me up.

As so often happens when I assume an intuitive service interface, I was wrong. The network recognized that my phone wasn’t activated, but rather than taking me through an activation process as I had expected, it pleasantly informed me that to activate the phone, I would need to call Sprint customer service. Of course, while I was told to contact customer service, the prompt didn’t give me the customer service phone number. I hung up, perplexed. Luckily, just before hopping online to find the customer service number, I notices a small message on the smartphone screen informing me that customer service is “*2”. Thinking I had the answer to my problem, I input *2, only to be met by my familiar autoservice voice. This time, however, it informed me that I couldn’t activate my new phone from that phone.

Bewildered at the unnecessary complexity, I called Sprint wireless from my landline, and spent the next 26 minutes with a live agent activating my phone.

It was completely inefficient interaction, needing 3 calls on my part, requiring me to have a different phone to activate the one I wanted to use, and taking almost ½ hour of live customer service time that could have been completely avoided with technology enabling the right engagement process.

Wireless companies are amongst the most criticized service experiences. As businesses, they routinely struggle to retain customers and maintain profitability. In a single interaction, there were several opportunities for the customer to serve themselves and increase success and satisfaction while decreasing cost. And that was just the first interaction.

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