Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Customer?

I said last night that my cell phone company would have the opportunity today to make me a very happy customer. Well, I would say I'm "happy," but not "very happy."

The reason I'm happy is the assistant manager of the Hutchinson Sprint store, Kim - and an intelligent customer service rep at corporate we spoke to this afternoon. The reason I'm not very happy is the person I spoke with at their corporate headquarters this morning. I have already blotted out her name because that would mar my general happiness level and none of us wants that.

I decided I wanted the new Treo phone. The website showed a price of $279 with a $50 service credit. I have a "loyalty credit" of $150. So, I was thinking with that and the service credit that would make the phone a very, very, very cheap $79. This, of course, meant I would be paying more per month because I would be buying a data package as well, but I was prepared to do that.

So... I go to get the phone last night and they say... oh no... the $200 off is already included in the $279 - that's the $150 plus the $50 credit. So, I come home and look at it online and basically anyone off the street, who has never been a Sprint customer, could get that deal. So, "loyalty credit" is meaningless. There's no loyalty involved - it's just the deal they're offering at the moment.

This morning I called and talked to someone about that. I was very nice. I just explained I didn't consider a deal they were giving to anyone was a reward for being with them for years. She was polite but unhelpful. She referred me on up to someone else.

When she started talking about policies and procedures and how they couldn't be broken I said, "well, obviously, someone has the authority to break policies and procedures - please transfer me to that person." She refused. Hmmm... that is NOT the way to make me a happy customer. Unless you are the company president or own the company, you are not the final authority - transfer me, dammit. I should have just hung up and called back but I knew I would explode at the next person and it wasn't their fault.

I was Sprint's FOURTH customer in my community of 50,000 plus, according to one of their employees in Wichita years ago. I have convinced a slew of other people to go with them so we all had free sprint to sprint calls. I have never once been late with my payment in the decade or so I've been with them. So, I'm a person who deserves a loyalty credit. I explained all this nicely and that giving me the same deal you're giving anyone is NOT rewarding my loyalty.

After my phone call with their corporate office, and talking to Ms. Policies and Procedures, I started hunting for a new plan with a new company. I had decided that on July 29, when my contract was up, I would be an Alltel customer. That wouldn't be convenient for friends on Sprint - particularly Greg - since we talk very casually a lot with those sprint to sprint minutes. But I figured I'd just have to work it out.

After lunch with Trish - when I had calmed down considerably due to pleasant conversation - it works wonders - I decided to go by the local Sprint office and thank Jeremy, the young man I've been dealing with the last couple of days - update him because he was expecting to sell me accessories and such - and look at phones just to see if there was something I had overlooked.

When I went in he wasn't there and the young lady asked if she could help me. I don't know - something came over me - maybe it was being surrounded by all that yellow sprint logo stuff - but I was instantly pissed all over again. As nicely as I could I said, "I just want to look at phones." She asked me something else and I said, as nicely as I could muster, "really, you don't want to talk to me - I am a very ticked off Sprint customer at the moment." After a few minutes the assistant manager asked if there was anything she could do to make me happy. I explained the whole deal... she called sprint... and guess what....

I could have a service credit - I pointed out so could anyone - they couldn't believe it but looked on the website and saw it was true. Then I could have extra minutes - well, I don't use the minutes I have now so I don't need more. Then they offered 5% off my bill... hmmm... it would take me a long time to recoup that supposed "loyalty credit." Then they offered 10% - same deal... my plan is good - I have no issues with it - it's not pricey - I'm not going to make up $150 in a really long time.

Finally, she asked Kim what I wanted. So, I talked to her and told her what I wanted was the $150 loyalty credit really applied as an actual loyalty credit to the cost of the phone. Eventually they did it, but without the $50 service credit. I decided I'd split the difference on that - they really gave me a credit for being a loyal customer. And I took it. I signed up for another two years.

The phone will be here in 3-5 days - I'm hoping sooner rather than later so I can have it before I go to DC. I'll go get the plan changed at the store locally and I'll buy the accessories there so they at least get something for all their trouble.

So, the moral of this story - corporate needs to take a lesson from Kim. She handled the obnoxious customer (me - despite my best efforts otherwise - and I certainly was not obnoxious when I started early this morning) masterfully. And I am happy.

Pretty much, by the time I was off the phone with the second person I talked to there was no hope of making me very happy. I had already had to invest too much time and energy in something that should have been straightforward. I would have been happier if they'd given me the $50 service credit too, but I'm happy. And they were able to lock me in for another two years, which should make them happy. And they'll get more money out of me each month, which should make them even happier.

This would an opportune time to say I've been overall content with Sprint service, although I HATE it that I don't have service in Kentucky at my family's. But, overall they've been good.

However, a lesson for anyone who deals with customer service - every time I have to deal with someone who is just apologizing to me and talking about policies and procedures, it erodes my general contentment level. Apologizing just ticks me off - I don't want you to apologize, I want you to address the problem. And every time I'm lied to - which is what happened today when I was told policies and procedures stated that no further discounts could be taken - it means I'm overall less content. And eventually that will be the undoing - that I'm generally less content than I was a year ago or two years ago or five years ago - so I'm starting any conversation with one foot out the door already.

Speaking of one foot out the door, until today I didn't really know what my options were. Now I do, because some fool at corporate ticked me off enough to look. In two years I'll have more options. This is a case where knowledge is a very, very, very dangerous thing. I now know I have other options - good options. You'll have to work harder to keep me two years from now.

But, for the moment... I'm happy... and I'm a Sprint customer for another two years. And I'm extremely appreciative of Kim and the person at corporate I spoke with this afternoon. I'm sure I'll enjoy my new phone/toy/widget.

OK... now... let me state for the record... I know people have far more important things to be concerned with than phones and phone plans and whether or not they can check their email and surf on their phone. I know. I'm petty. Aren't we all at times?

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