We've all had times we want to fire our customers - and those of us who've worked in B2B environments probably can think of some horror stories of customers who were so impossible to satisfy that their business cost us more than it made for us. And often, we were right; we were keeping our promises but there was simply no way they'd be happy.
US mobile phone carrier Sprint seems to have taken this idea to heart; apparently they are terminated 1,000 customers who called customer service too often (more than 25 times a month), telling them that they feel they just can't satisfy them, so they should go away.
Problem is, it turns out that some of these customers are saying that they call so much because Sprint keeps screwing up. (As a former customer of both Sprint long distance and wireless, I believe this; the only correct mobile phone bill I got from Sprint was the first one, and the long distance billing problems required me to hunt down the number of their headquarters and beg to speak to a VP of customer service to straighten out - after they'd turned my account over to collections even as their service reps kept agreeing that yes, I was right, the bill was completely wrong. All telecoms are pretty bad at customer service, but in my experience, Sprint's incompetence is unparalleled in the industry.)
The Consumerist link above quotes one just-terminated Sprint customer:
I've only been a Sprint customer since December 2005. I joined on the $30 SERO plan. This was around the time the SERO plans first became available and they still included unlimited text messaging. Since then, I've called numerous times because I keep being charged $10.00 for the unlimited text messages. Every month I call and every month they only credit my account $8.00. This happens every month. This past month I had also been having problems with my Samsung IP-830W. I did go to my local repair center to deal with that, but they stuck me with a refurbished Treo 700P with non-functioning space-bar and menu key. I've been calling customer service pretty much every day for the past month trying to get this fixed too (getting an equivalent replacement). I purchased this IP-830W full price (~$699) back in March of this year. I've spoken with numerous customer service supervisors about this and they've offered me a blue Treo 755P. They told me they would put a temporary credit on my account for the same price as the blue Treo 755P and then send me a return kit for this defective Treo 700P the repair center left me with. The temporary credit is on my account, but no one has been able to order this blue Treo 755P. I also have not received the return kit.
Now, there are two sides to every story, and maybe these folks can just never be satisfied. But they're not the problem; they're the canary in the coalmine, serving as a warning to Sprint that something is wrong in customer service. Getting rid of them won't fix their problems.
Moreover, the bad PR from this will probably scare some potential customers away from Sprint.
That PR keeps getting worse; after the initial story turned up last week, some charged that some of the accounts being terminated belong to active duty military personnel - and are being terminated for "excessive roaming." Larry Dignan at ZDNet is recommending an overall boycott of the company. Is this all really worth the money saved by dumping those customers?
It's stupidity on Sprint's part from start to finish. Yes, sometimes there are customers you just don't want. But you'd better make sure it's because they are impossible to satisfy, not because you're just bad at satisfying them.
Update: another thought on this subject