So, the quest of the perfect wireless company continues. Readers of this forum know that I maintain a pretty strong interest in the wireless space, technology evolution, market trends and competitive news. The interest goes more than the mere cosmetic. I work as a management consultant focused on Telecom and Media clients – so whatever I opine here is not just layman facts – its based on some pretty long years spent at every major Telco in the United States. But I digress.

Today, I want to take some time to write my experience with Sprint Customer Service – one of the much-maligned aspects of Sprint. And frankly, Sprint’s customer service has left a lot to be desired post-merger with Nextel. Almost to a point, where I was ready to break a contract so I didn’t have to speak to the ill-informed and rude Customer Service Reps anytime.

Over the past few weeks, I have had a slew of issues – with the network where I live, with my corporate PDA and finally, today, with my personal line’s billing – for which I have had to call Sprint on more than one occasion. I know I briefly alluded to the topic here, but that was before I had issues with returning my old PDA and issues with the bill.

For a lot of people, Sprint is a favorite whipping boy. But having used every provider in the US (apart from T-Mobile), I can say pretty emphatically that their reputation, though well deserved in some quarters, is definitely worth a re-look.

This post is about Sprint’s customer service improvements. My experience and views on their network can be read here.

So first, the scope of my problems:

a) My corporate PDA stops sending emails: I call Sprint customer service and the very helpful person on the other side makes me go through the motion of the script – take out battery, hit reset button etc. Nothing works. Within 3 minutes, he logs onto his Fulfillment system to see if he can ship me a replacement device. Now, I throw in a curve-ball. While my HTC Mogul was great, I hated the slide-out keyboard that didn’t let me type with one hand. So I request him if he can ship me a Treo instead. He goes through the system and luckily for me there are no HTCs available. 2 minutes later, he puts a shipment order for the Treo 800w – the latest iteration of the Treo. And I receive it the next day.

Then, due to the return equipment and everything, I had a charge on my account that I needed taken out. I call Sprint Customer Care. The CSR on the other side – looks into my issue and realizes he needs to get into the warehouse system to ensure the phone has been returned. After confirming, he actually tells me that it would take him some time to sort through this and promises to call me back the next day. At 8.34 am the next day, to tell me that all the authorizations required to refund the amount had been done and I was good to go. Unbelievable. Especially based on my earlier experience with Sprint.

b) One Time Excess Charge: This month, owing to some family situation, I used around 1000 text messages. Problem is I have a monthly limit of 500. So I get charged extra per additional text message that blows up my bill pretty significantly. So I call Sprint – and it takes them exactly 30 seconds to clear the charge as a courtesy. I am even more amazed.

c) And finally, today – I call Sprint because I see a handset upgrade fee on my personal account (because I decided to change my aging phone for my birthday). I call them and the Customer Service Rep actually apologizes for Sprint charging me as such a longtime customer. He takes it out along with another little charge I saw that I thought was irregular. No questions asked. Courteous. And fast.

The reason I am writing this rather long post is simply this. Sprint has received a lot of flak recently for a number of things that they understandably didn’t do right. But bad as they are doing right now, they are beginning to turn things around and it is showing. In their voice network – which I think rivals the best in the country (Verizon Wireless), their data network (which is THE best in the country) and now their customer service (which, in my experience is getting there).

Turning around a company as large as Sprint will take time. But I think, fundamentally, they are in the right path and will get there sooner than most analysts think. At least operationally.

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