How Sprint Nextel turned around customer service


This blog post comes to you live from the second annual Forrester Customer Experience Forum 2010 at the Grand Hyatt in New York. The theme of the event is creating breakthrough customer experiences. Dan Hesse, CEO, Sprint Nextel, discusses how Sprint has improved it customer service rankings — a process he calls a “long, multi-year journey.”

With self-effacing humor, he states that he’s sure many in the audience are surprised to see Sprint talking at a conference on customer service. He admits that at the beginning of 2008, cost cutting at Sprint hurt the Sprint brand, damaged customer service, and cost the company revenue. So he helped Spring get focused on three simple objectives: improving the Sprint customer experience, improving the brand, and generating more revenue.

The key to Sprint’s improvement was embracing “The Magnificent 7” in 2008 — 7 customer service operating principles around which the company would rally. For example, Sprint would align compensation and rewards around clear metrics like improving customer satisfaction and reducing the volume of customer care calls. Sprint pledged to analyze religiously root causes of customer unhappiness and hold its managers accountable for the problem, be it a needlessly complicated rate plan or a dropped call.

Sprint also simplified its rate plans, which were causing confusion among customers and contributing to a perception that Sprint was not customer centric. And Sprint created a series of TV ads holding itself accountable for better customer service.

In short, Sprint made customer care the entire company’s business — not just a problem for its call center.

Within two years, Sprint reduced calls to its care center by more than 30 percent and overall improved its customer satisfaction scores. In 2010, Sprint was one of three firms that saw the biggest improvement in the Forrester Research Customer Experience rankings.

But “most imporoved does not cut it,” Dan concludes. He vows to make Sprint the leader in customer service — a journey that began in 2008 when one CEO aligned his entire company around simple improvement goals.