This is one of those stories that just make you shake your head. A new prospective Sprint/Nextel customer tries to sign up for a two-year mobile contract. She’s told she can’t sign-up until she resolves a previous contract balance, even though she’s never had an account with Sprint before. The balance? Four cents. That’s right. Four. Cents.
It gets better.
Sprint tells her that she can’t pay the balance right then and there by phone, and she can’t add it to the balance of her new account, she has to drive to a Sprint store and pay it in person. The customer flips Sprint the bird and hangs up.
And then she blogs it. http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/HotfootLori/159019
Now, Sprint has a story burning a wildfire through the blogosphere highlighting bureaucratic incompetence. The company spends hundreds of millions on advertising, and now their bureaucratic bungling results in a free windfall of earned media for their competitors. I’d love to see an economist calculate the ultimate cost of that $.04 decision.
Update: I was contacted by a Sprint representative within 24 hours of writing this post, and given information that has been posted by the same representative in the comments below. He sought to inform me about Sprint’s side of the story, but did not ask me to remove the post. Later, in the comments below, after more information about the story came to light, he suggested I might want to change the title of the post. But honestly, I don’t think that’s the best course of action to take. I think Sprint has demonstrated that, at least on the social media side, they’ve done a very good job of tackling this issue head on, and I think it’s the whole story, in context, that marketers should get, and not just the outcome. We can argue about what Sprint might have done differently to avoid this problem in the first place, but once the ball was in play, I think Sprint’s marketing executed well, and I think the post should remain as a case study.