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How to Alienate Business Customers — The Sprint Way

Clear is a wireless Internet provider owned by Sprint. Last week Sprint turned off a major cell site in Seattle providing wireless Internet via Clear to several residences and businesses. I was one of the business victims. So was Subway Shop #4091. Subway was using the connection for credit card payments in the store. (I frequent the store and saw the Clear modem, which is why I got their side of the story.)

There was no notice to any of the affected users that service was going down permanently (both confirmed by Clear/Sprint representatives).

There was no concern by Clear/Sprint customer service that it was stopped when a call was made asking what happened to the service.

There was no concern by Clear/Sprint customer service that there was no notice: “It was an engineering decision.” In other words, there was no concern for existing customers.

The best options Sprint/Clear could offer: put the modem outside or cancel the account. Putting the modem outside is not nearly as easy as suggesting it, and actually shows the ignorance of the representative. You can’t simply stick an electronic piece of equipment outdoors without proper protection from the various weather elements. Then, there is the problem of running power and ethernet cables. Placing outside is not much of an option. Who is going to pay for non-service? Cancellation seems to be the best option.

if your service got cut off without notice and you were then met with basically uncaring representatives that want to pass the blame to engineering, then what would be your long-term thinking in relation to doing more and future business with the provider? Seems obvious to me.

Frankly, having been a former Sprint cell phone customer for about 12 years, this recent action regarding the company’s wireless Internet customers does not surprise me. Sprint, in my opinion, never had any concept of what good customer service was or is.

As more people defect from Sprint on their own and as more paying customers have their service terminated, one has to wonder how much longer Sprint will be around — and that’s something to consider when thinking about being a business customer.

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Manufacturer’s Weak Insight Into Own Product

I recently had a Kenwood KDC-X798 radio installed into my car.

The AM reception was terrible. I went back to the business that sold the radio and installed it. I had them pull the radio out again to check the antenna connection. I could see that everything was connected. The installer and other workers at the business claimed the problem was the antenna on the rear window.

I wrote to Kenwood hoping to gain some insight. The best Kenwood could tell me was to check the antenna connection.

Lacking any information from the professional installer or the manufacturer, I began to do my own research on and off over a couple weeks, combined with a group consultation with a few very savvy ham radio friends.

The bottom line from my own research: my vehicle has a hidden antenna amplifier that needs power. Power was supposed to be injected into pin 14 of the vehicle’s radio connector. The Kenwood radio’s solid blue wire labeled “Ant Cont” (antenna connection) that was connected to pin 14 was not, after putting a volt meter to it, not putting out any power.

The manual for the radio showed the solid blue wire marked Ant Cont — but there was a little note in small print saying “not used.” (Why is it marked “Ant Cont” then?)

More research suggested that the unused PCont (power connection), a blue and white wire, might be the correct wire to connect to pin 14. So, I pulled the radio out, removed the solid blue and applied the blue-white wire. Apparently, that is all that was needed, because the AM radio came to life with good reception and the FM radio (with HD digital) also worked better.

Would it be too much for Kenwood to accurately label the solid blue wire “unused” — to match the manual — rather than “Ant Cont”? This would give the installer a heads up and reduce the number of dissatisfied Kenwood customers. And apparently, the professional installer was unaware that there was a hidden amplifier in the car that required power.

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Customer’s Need for Status Updates

My van was recently at the repair shop for four weeks. I had access to another vehicle, so I was not dependent on the van and let the repair shop know. However, there was no communication from the repair shop during these four weeks. Because the shop was only a four-minute drive away, I would drive by once a week to see if my van was still there. Had the repair shop kept me posted about progress, I would not have needed to take the drives.

When a customer’s problem takes time to resolve, it is always helpful to let the customer know what is going on, for a few reasons.

1. Most customers do not want to be perceived as an irritant. When status updates are not provided to the customer, the customer must initiate communication. When the service provider initiates communication with status updates, the customer will never feel like an irritant.

2. Status updates on resolution show the service provider is paying attention to the customer’s problem, and this in turn helps the customer relax. (Lawyers could do better in this.) A relaxed customer is more likely to be a happier customer — and a return customer.

3. The service provider gains more control over time management, because it takes less time to initiate and provide status updates than to deal with upset customers in person or on the phone.

4. A customer is more likely to have a higher regard for a service provider — even if it is having problems making the fix — with status reports. Communication to the customer is a bigger deal than most providers realize and can have huge benefits in word of mouth referrals.