As I was reading the latest edition of the Kansas City Business Journal I ran across an article that just cracked me up so I thought I'd share some observations and thoughts about it. The headline reads "Hesse: Time to dial up some hometown loyalty". Dan Hesse is the latest CEO to be appointed to try and right the Sprint ship. Sprint is based in KC and over the past 8 years I've seen them burn through 3 executive teams, watched their stock drop like a meteor, layoff literally tens of thousands of people and throw away over a billion dollars in failed technology initiatives all while continuing to lose customers.

I've been an unwilling Sprint customer for the past 8 years (our company was a vendor there years ago which caused us to subscribe to PCS which it sounds like we're about to dump - hallilujah!). If anyone is a Sprint customer you know why Sprint is having trouble - it's customer service. I don't know how many hours of productivity our firm has lost while our employees stood in line at Sprint stores to have an issue resolved, and frankly I don't want to know. I've had one of their store assistant managers accuse my sweet wife of being a racist OUT LOUD, in their store (long story, but let me just point out that my wife is about as far from being racist as one can get). Their call quality and reliability until very recently in the KC metro was not all that great. Ironically one of the worst places in terms of coverage for Sprint is still their world headquarters here in Overland Park. I could go on but you get the picture. Sprint customers are unhappy and leaving in scores. Sprint employees are unhappy - go take a look at Glassdoor.com (which very much reflects the feelings of the people I know who work at Sprint). Sprint has EARNED it's reputation in this community and with it's customers nationally.

None of this is soley Dan Hesse's fault, and most of it was set in place long before he took over. I commend him for at least trying to take steps to right the ship. He knows it's customer service that is killing Sprint. They're taking baby steps to get their customer service in line. I can make a reservation at their store now which reduces my wait time from an hour to 10-15 minutes. (Although I still don't know why they waste money on a store host/hostess whose only job is to welcome you and put you in que - why not just have an automated system do that and dedicate that money to another person that can actually help you?) They handed discount coupons to their employees to give to friends. Regardless, the damage has been done. Sprint's reputation for poor customer service is well-deserved and it will take more than a few months for the changes they're implementing to rebuild that reputation.

Which brings me to the really funny part of the article. Hasse is quoted as saying "So if I see someone that's not carrying a Sprint phone my first impression is they are probably not community-minded".

WHAT??!! Are you freaking kidding me Dan? Under your regime you've announced another 4,000 layoffs. Your customer satisfaction ratings are in the toilet. Your churn is among the worst in the industry. Have you talked to any pre-merger Nextel customers that were forced on to your network? Probably not since those networks don't play well together. Based on what you have to know about Sprint and their troubles it got to take pretty big balls to accuse us of not being "community-minded" for not carrying your phones. I'm all about supporting the community. I'm NOT all about crap service.

Ok, so what does all of this have to do with recruiting? First of all it's a good rant that allowed me to get some things off my chest which will make me more effective recruiting today. Secondly it's a great lesson in customer service. Your customers are your lifeblood. You need to LISTEN to them and tailor your business to meet THEIR needs, not the other way around. One only needs to look at Sprint's history to see how they skyrocketed from CLEC (United Telephone & Telecom) to LDD carrier (remember Candice Bergan & the "Pin Drop" commercials?). Great customer service. Then they changed their model from customer driven to product driven ("first to market" was their mantra). That's about the time they started their long, downward slide & has nothing to do with the current executive leadership. I think Dan Hesse is sincere in wanting to put the customer first, but I'm not going to feel guilty about not being "community-minded" when I answer my iPhone.

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