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Sprint's economic woes could force WiMAX cutbacks

When a large company starts talking about consolidation and refocusing in attempts to gain market share on competitors, that usually means layoffs and corporate restructuring will be part of its efforts. Last year, Sprint Nextel laid off 5,000 workers in efforts to save money that could be used for other company needs.

Sprint is currently the nation’s third largest mobile phone carrier and is reported to lag well behind number one AT&T and number two Verizon. Some blame Sprint’s subscriber woes on poor customer service, but Sprint says the general economic downturn in the U.S. is partly to blame.

Sprint Nextel Corp. CEO Dan Hesse is expected to announce a new round of layoffs at Sprint rumored to affect roughly 2,000 employees. The Wall Street Journal Online reports that Hesse and other executives are considering moving about 200 of Sprint's top executives to the Sprint headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas. These employees currently work from the former Nextel corporate headquarters in Reston, Virginia.

Reports also claim that Sprint may be considering a roll back of its WiMAX plans to cover fewer subscribers as a way to cut the $5 billion USD cost of setting the WiMAX network up. Sprint had said it expected to reach 100 million subscribers with WiMAX service this year, but that number could reportedly be cut by as much as 30% to save costs.

WiMAX is a next generation wireless data service that promises data speeds on par with wired broadband connections over large distances, Sprint calls its WiMAX service Xohm. ASUS recently announced that its second generation Eee PC would support WiMAX.

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Customer Service... or is it?
By ice456789 on 1/15/2008 6:18:41 PM , Rating: 5
I worked in a Sprint call center for over a year. When I first started working there, Sprint had just hired IBM to help them with their customer service issue. IBM's answer: better scripting for the customer service technicians. If the rep did not exactly follow the script, their paychecks were affected. The scripts actually caused as much frustration for the customers as they did for the reps. For example, if you call in and say "My phone isn't working, I need it up and running NOW", the rep would have to reply "Oh, so your phone isn't working? Ok, I can help you with that. Is there anything else you needed help with as well?" I would rather have them say "Well let's get that phone up and running ASAP." and fix the problem instead of digging for other problems. This is just one of IBM's six 'lightning bolts' that must be hit on each and every call, making calls take longer and just irritating the customer more. Whether you helped the customer or not, you end each call with a sales pitch, and then you ask them if they were satisfied with your service. When I quit Sprint, they had just fired IBM and started to undo some of the damage that IBM had done. As a manager, we were told to instruct our teams to do whatever would make the customer happy as long as it was reasonable. That was directly opposite my training when I first started. We were initially told that every dollar we gave away to the customer as a credit is a dollar that came out of our salary pool. My particular call center also released all their supervisors (you know, the people you talk to when the first person isn't doing you any good). As of then if you asked to speak to a supervisor, you actually just got another customer service rep. I don't know if that's changed since I left, or if it was a company-wide move.

Sprint's customer service problems stem from one issue. POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE. If you hire poor customer service reps and tell them it's more important to sell upgrades than it is to solve problems then of course you're going to end up with poor customer service. IBM came in and made things worse, so Sprint is in a bigger hole now than ever. Nothing will get better until they get rid of the scripts, the abusive selling, and the poor customer service reps.

RE: Customer Service... or is it?
By eye smite on 1/15/2008 7:13:56 PM , Rating: 4
I worked for an outsourcing company called Decision One. I was not at their Tulsa location where the sprint celphones tech and customer support was located, but oh do I remember the horror stories and totally goofed handling of those services. Decision One is, Thank God, out of the outsourcing callcenter business. They sold the location and contract to another company who immediately gave a pay cut to people who had worked there for up to 5 yrs with no raise. That means the techs and reps are making a whopping $8 an hour, and they will never get good service paying people that.

RE: Customer Service... or is it?
By AlexWade on 1/15/2008 8:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
My dad called Sprint about 4 months ago. He asked for a copy of the bill, and their answer was, and I quote, "Why do you want that?" I didn't hear the rest, but he told me they were rude. However, my issue with Sprint is their terrible cell-phone service and their greed. My cable company does VoIP through Sprint and, to no one's surprise, it costs $15 more than Vonage but has the same quality, that is to say not great but acceptable. After the Nextel purchase, I have more of chance punching a hole through a brick wall than to get my call to go through, seriously. I call my friend with a Nextel, and it goes to voicemail 90%+ of the time. He calls back and I ask "Where you using the phone?" The answer was always no. Sprint sucks as a company in every category.

Cingular, er AT&T's customer service, which I have, is incompetent but not rude. I keep them because in my area, their service is the best (but not so everywhere). I listen to Clark Howard from time to time, and he is right when he calls it customer DIS-service. My favorite fast food restaurant became my favorite because of customer service. The staff come to your table to refill your drinks. They say hi to you when you walk in. This place is always packed, but it is because of the service.

RE: Customer Service... or is it?
By ice456789 on 1/15/2008 9:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
It should tell you something that despite working for Sprint and having access to the $10/mo unlimited everything plan for employees, I kept my phone with another provider. It's weird, I know. I just like my calls to go through. I'm pretty particular about that.

Part of the reason that Sprint has bad CS reps is that it is virtually impossible to be fired. They will put you on the midnight shift and hope you quit, but unless you blatantly curse someone out and it happens to be the one call out of 100 that they monitor, you get to stay. I had people under me on the phones that had customer service ratings that were abysmal, but I could not fire them. I had to actually catch them on a call berating a customer.

By UNCjigga on 1/16/2008 1:29:01 PM , Rating: 2
This really shouldn't surprise anyone. Sprint has been digging their own grave since the Nextel merger. Its been nothing but poor decisions, bad management and missed opportunities since then.

Tim Donahue should have been CEO of the merged company, not Gary Forsee. In fact, HQ should have moved from Kansas to the DC metro area in order to better compete for Federal contracts. Nextel's business sales teams were the best in the industry, but Sprint crippled them by getting rid of DC-based management and consolidating management in Kansas.

They should've started the transition from iDEN to CDMA for certain customer segments a lot sooner. I can go on and on...

By AntDX316 on 1/17/2008 4:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
u should have been CEO then

remember that sound-clip?
By inperfectdarkness on 1/16/2008 9:38:41 AM , Rating: 2
has anyone else heard that sound clip of the guy on the phone with verizon's customer service--trying to explain to them the difference between $.02 and .02 cents?

yeah. trust me, customer service sucks everywhere. i guess i just accept it, and move on. after all, 15 years ago...none of us could afford a cell-phone anyways.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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