Friday, February 29, 2008


#366 Sprint

News Item: Sprint said it would jettison customers who called customer service too often.

News Item: Sprint lost something close to 30 billion dollars in its most recent reporting year.

News Item: Sprint's new CEO fired 4,000 workers.

Question: Any connection among these events?

You don't have to be a tel-com Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out.

The answer is the mindset that jettisons customers, fires workers on a grand scale and loses the GDP of Lithuania is likely not to last the night, and probably shouldn't.

Their attitude stinks. Their network is more like a patch-work and they bet the farm on an acquisition, Nextel, that they never should have tried to swallow. Nextel was in trouble when Sprint bought it. It had one feature that made it stand out -- a nationwide walkie-talkie system, which, when you activated it made a sound similar to that of a baby pelican missing a pass at a fish twice its size. Skweep--errr.

Why would you buy something that said Skweep-err every time someone started to talk with you and ended a sentence?

Here's a typical Nextel walkie-talkie phone conversation:

Skweep--errr. Hey Tom, you there? Skweep--errr.

Skweep--errr. Yeah Mike, I'm here. Skweep--errr. Skweep--errr. Waddaya need? Skweep--errr.

Skweep--errr. Did you get those 2x4s from the lumber yard? Skweep--errr.

Skweep--errr. Yeah, got 'em on the truck right now. Skweep--errr.

Skweep--errr. Okay. What's your ETA? Skweep--errr.

Skweep--errr. Say again? Skweep--errr.

Skweep--errr. I say When you getting back to the jobsite? Skweep--errr.

It could go on like that for hours.

For this, Sprint paid $35 billion and lost another 30?

Then, there was the "Dear John" letter: "Dear Customer, We're happy you chose Sprint/Nextel as your mobil telephone carrier. But you call us every five minutes with idiotic requests and questions and therefore, we'd like you to go to Verizon or at&t or maybe get a couple of oatmeal boxes and a length of string. So, at the end of the billing cycle, you're gonzo. Taillights. History. Someone else's worry. Sincerely..."

Imagine opening the mailbox one afternoon and discovering that you're unworthy of buying someone's phone service.

Never mind they need every customer they can get. Never mind they need to patch the holes in their service network. Never mind that they've purchased Skweep--errr, one of the top 100 annoying sounds in the known universe.

They have a new chief executive. He's supposed to be a pretty smart guy. Two of his recent decisions kind of pull in different directions. Decision 1: go along with the competition and give flat rate service (like a real telephone company.) Decision 2: Move the headquarters from suburban Washington, DC to the middle of nowhere in Kansas, Overland Park. Sprint had been based there, but moved a lot of its big wheels to Reston, VA where Nextel had it's office.

Another of those "mergers of equals" like Daimler and Chrysler, turns out to be anything but.

And while they're busy planning and executing the move, don't expect anything in the way of a service improvement.

Thing is, Sprint ain't Polaroid, which stirred many a nostalgic heart and mind when it announced the other day it won't make film anymore, and you guys with our cameras will just have to throw them away.

Polaroid once meant something, but Sprint didn't and doesn't, and no one's going to miss it when it goes under -- except the remaining thousands of stock holders, workers and the eight remaining customers.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

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