What Sprint Could Learn from Cat Litter

Summary: You would probably think that a company who values reduction in customer churn (Sprint) would have lessons for a company for whom churn is an offshoot of the scooping action (Normerica), but in fact the opposite is true. (You just knew from the title that some bad puns were coming.) I was treated far better when raising an issue about the quality of cat litter I’ve bought for a decade than I was in raising an issue about my cell phone contract with Sprint with whom I’ve been a customer for 12 years, spending well in excess of $10,000.

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I thought that title would get your mind wondering where I was going with this. I had interesting experiences with how two companies in very different businesses dealt with a customer complaint.

I had a two-cell-phone contract with Sprint for years — and I mean years — that had different allotments for Anytime minutes, Night & Weekend minutes, and Mobile to Mobile minutes. My understanding was that all the minutes were shared between the two phones. That’s what I was verbally told. In fact, when I last upgraded my phone and renewed my contract, the written documentation provided me stated that “Minutes are shared.”

I wound up going over my “Anytime” minute allotment one month, which rang up charges at 40 cents per minute. I could tell from the call detail that all the minutes on the second phone on the account were being applied to the Anytime allotment even if the calls were made during nights or weekends.

I then began a four-month quest to get the issue addressed. The first phone agent with whom I spoke agreed with my assessment and filed a trouble ticket with engineering (or something like that). Not surprisingly, I heard nothing.

Rather than go through a long call again, I wrote a letter to Sprint Customer Service outline my diagnosis of the situation. Since I’ve worked in customer support for three decades, I know it’s difficult for a phone agent to do research on the call. And it was faster to write the letter than make another long, arduous phone call. I got an unintelligible voice mail reply from Sprint Customer Service, and when I returned that call, I got an agent who had not seen my letter and new nothing about my case. And I could not get connected to the person who had called since I could not understand her name.

This agent told me I was wrong about my understanding of my contract and tried to upsell me. I’m not a fan of having bait-and-switch being practiced on me. We got into a bit of a heated argument, and I had to get off the phone to avoid being unprofessional.

Back to square one.

I wrote a second letter this time to the office of the president, assuming it would go to a real problem solver. Based upon experiences I had had with companies with whom I had a long-standing relationship, such as Subaru, I thought I would be taken care of. I included the written documentation showing the contract I had with Sprint and all my analysis.

A month later — yes, a full month later — I got a letter that basically thanked me for my patronage but told me I was wrong. The writer never addressed the written documentation of the contract I sent.

Now, does Sprint really think I’m going to keep my custom with them?

  • They change my contract without telling me.
  • They deny they have changed my contract.
  • They tell me I am wrong about the contract despite written documentation, which they convenienlty ignore.
  • They take forever to respond.
  • And they try to upsell me!

Let’s contrast this with Normerica, makers of Simplicity Plus and other cat litter. (I’m really a dog person, but for lifestyle reasons we have cats, which I treat like dogs. Fetch!) As the person who works out of the home, I also get the pleasure of many daily chores, including scooping the litter boxes. (Yes, TMI…) We’ve always bought Simplicity Plus. Great price at Costco and does the job quite well. Or did. I noticed that product from recent boxes put up a cloud of dust when scooping. Not pleasant at all.

I was just going to switch products, but the Simplicity Plus box had contact information on it. In my line of work, that’s an easy invitation to take. What did I have to lose? I wrote a short email on a Sunday, and by 9:30 am on Monday I got a nice reply. They assured me that the quality control issues had been addressed — and they sent me a check refunding my most recent purchase.

And the next box I bought had no dust problem.

While I am sure that Normerica gets fewer complaints than Sprint due to the nature of the product, that should mean that Sprint has built a richer infrastructure to handle customer issues. But from Normerica, I got

  • A quick reply
  • Recognition of my issue
  • A fair resolution

Will I buy more Simplicity Plus? Of course. I wish they carried cell phone network service.

I have read repeatedly that Sprint has made great strides in its customer service. I guess I’m one data point to the contrary. And I just switched to T-Mobile for my cell service. Goodbye Sprint. [In a future article I might write about the very poor initial customer experience I had with T-Mobile. Why? I couldn’t understand the 4 different customer service people with whom I spoke — and I was calling them on my landline. Remember, this is a phone company!]

Normerica has a better, more effective process for addressing customer issues. Far better. For kitty litter.

Go figure.