Sprint Nextel Defends Decision To Terminate Customers Who Call Customer Service Too Much

AP Business Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Sprint Nextel Corp. isn't apologizing for its decision to ax customers it determined were calling customer service too often.

The nation's third-largest wireless provider sent letters to about 1,000 subscribers June 29, saying the company's records showed they had made frequent calls for help with questions about billing and other account information.

"While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time had led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs," the letters said.

The customers were told their service agreements were being terminated, they wouldn't owe anything on their final bill, and the company would waive early termination fees. They also were told to switch to another wireless provider by July 30 if they want to keep their phone number.

In debate on the Internet, Sprint's move has attracted criticism that the company is penalizing consumers for trying to get what they paid for, or that the frequent calls are more a reflection of poor customer service by Sprint itself.

But Sprint officials said Monday this isn't a case of someone being flagged by a computer program, and that an internal review lasting six months to a year focused on the types of problems the callers had and what information they were seeking.

"These accounts have been researched very carefully," Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton said. "We feel strongly that the decisions we made, we stand by them. These decisions weren't made lightly."

Singleton said the targeted subscribers each made an average of 40 to 50 calls a month to customer service. She wouldn't say how that compared with the overall number of calls logged by the customer service department in a given month.

Singleton said the review also found that the subscribers often were calling about the same problems over and over after Sprint officials felt they had resolved the issue. She said some callers were repeatedly asking for information from other customers' accounts, which customer service workers aren't allowed to divulge.

"If the average person is calling less than once per month and these people are calling 40 or 50 times more, that takes away from customer service," Singleton said. "Our priority is to improve the customer experience."

Officials at competitors AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless said that while they may terminate customers who are abusive toward customer service operators or violate other terms of their service agreements, they don't terminate customers because of customer service calls.

"We have never severed ties with customers in a mass mailing like this," said Verizon spokeswoman Cheryl Bini Armbrecht.

CIBC World Markets analyst Tim Horan said in a research note to investors that he didn't see anything alarming with Sprint's decision.

"Sprint has taken a number of steps to improve the 'quality' of its customer base and we view this measure in the same light," Horan wrote.

Sprint, which has about 54 million subscribers, has been trying to upgrade its customer base, tightening credit requirements and attempting to attract customers who will spend more each month on data services, such as Internet browsing, music downloads and streaming video.

During the most recent quarter, the company said it gained just 600,000 new customers, while AT&T and Verizon gained 1.2 million and 1.7 million, respectively.

Earlier this month, Sprint unveiled a new marketing campaign aimed at highlighting its network speed and capabilities, an attempt to distance itself from earlier marketing campaigns that were criticized as unfocused and confusing.
On the Net:
Sprint Nextel Corp.: http://www.sprint.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by Howard C Brown Location: Austin Tx on Jul 19, 2007 at 06:52 PM
    I'm so tried of tried of paying for a phone plan that doesn't work like they said it would. Just tonight I have been on the phone with nextel rep more then 2 hours of my time, and the I still don't have anything fixed. Thanks sprint and nextel
  • by Funny Guy Location: Lexington on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:15 AM
    I guess I'll have to SPRINT to my cell phone carrier and be the NEXT to TEL them I want to be fired...LOL!
  • by Voice of Reason Location: Lexington on Jul 12, 2007 at 05:38 AM
    If a company is receiving a plethora of complaints from various sources, it is obvious that there is a problem with the company and not the customers. After reading the few comments below, it is apparent that the concencus is against Sprint Nextel. Bad business decision on their part in my opinion. Not only will this cause current customers to defect, but potential future customers will see this as a bad customer service move and will not even consider Sprint Nextel. Look at the numbers for new customers; looks like Sprint Nextel pales in comparison to AT&T and Verizon. The story also states that Sprint Nextel is attempting to attract customers who will spend more each month on data services, such as Internet browsing, music downloads and streaming video. Sure, more money for them on those services but they are thumbing their nose at the people who just want a phone and are calling to complain about problems with either billing or reception. I see this as nothing but a public relations blunder for them.
  • by Anonymous Location: Winchester on Jul 11, 2007 at 01:06 PM
    My husband and I had Nextel phones while we lived in Florida, and never had a problem until Nextel merged with Sprint. Once they merged, our phones became useless-we never had a signal, every call got dropped, and we couldn't even get our phones repaired locally. WE "fired" them, and went with Cingular, and have had excellent customer service with them, and now with AT & T. Funny thing is, I haven't had our Nextel/Sprint phones active since last December. They sent me a bill for $2 and change for text service which we never had on our account. I called Sprint/Nextel, and they said they would remove the charge and I owe them nothing. Now, instead of a bill every month, they keep sending me an invoice stating they owe me 16 cents-it's not worth my time to call or write them to tell them to keep the change, I'm glad to get rid of them. So, if Sprint/Nextel is reading these blogs, please quit killing trees to send me a statement that you owe me 16 cents! KEEP IT!
  • by Tiffany Location: KY on Jul 11, 2007 at 11:40 AM
    I have not had many problems in the almost two years that I have had Nextel. I've had to call maybe twice and received great customer service. My mom and brother have two phones on one bill and every now and then she has issues with billing but they are always happy to help her and remove any charges that aren't correct.
  • by Donna Location: Lawrenceburg on Jul 11, 2007 at 10:38 AM
    I agree, I am with Sprint/Nextel, and wish they would "fire" me. I have been with them for over 5 years, all my family has Nextel. They get so many phone calls because everything they do is wrong. My bills are never right, plans are never what you sign for and the bill gets higher, but service gets worse. They have a lot of nerve complaining about the customer when they don't hold up their in of the bargain.
  • by Heather Location: Jeffersonville on Jul 11, 2007 at 10:21 AM
    If sprint and nextel would get their junk straight then customers would not call so much. I at least have to contact them twice a month regarding the same issue and if it happens again this month then they will be recieving more phone calls from me. You would think after the second time of fixing the issue they would have it fixed. Its like you have to remind them what your plan is every month. I think they are trying to swindle money out of customers to make up for their loss in business. Ive just noticed their poor service in the last few months.
  • by Crystal Location: Mt. Sterlin on Jul 11, 2007 at 10:18 AM
    I used to be a Sprint/Nextel cust. service rep. Believe me those customers that call 40 to 50 times a month more then likely needed to call that much. Sprint/Nextel has terrible service and their plans arent very good either. Ive seen people with broken phones have to call numerous times just to get warrenty replacement. The customers they are letting go are better off with another company. I myself am an AT&T (formerly Cingular) cust and believe me they are great. My phone that I had for 3 months crashed, I called once and was sent a replacement phone the next day.
  • by terry Location: ky on Jul 11, 2007 at 09:03 AM
    GET RID OF THEM. I have been with Tmobile for at least 7 years and they are always polite, helpful and make you feel valued as a customer. You dont have to put up with that. Sprint has always been rude when I called for employers who had the bad luck to have SPrint. I have even told the workers they need to switch to Tmobile. Sprint doesnt deserve you! DROP THEM!
  • by Jen Location: Georgetown on Jul 11, 2007 at 09:02 AM
    I wish Nextel would "fire" me...I have been unhappy with my cell service for the past year and can't wait until my contract comes out. I have 4 phones on my plan, nothing is ever right on the billing statement. I have to contact them to adjust it. The plan I signed up for is not what I am getting...I am so frustrated! I was given a name and number of a customer rep...she is NEVER in her office and never returns your call. Please...if Nextel is listening...FIRE ME!
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