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article imageIs Sprint Sinking Like Shackleton's Ship? Hesse Thinks So But Is More Optimistic.

By Nikki Weingartner     Jul 8, 2008 in Business
Sprint is significantly behind Verizon in subscribers. In response, Sprint's new CEO Daniel R. Hesse has given employees a DVD documentary about a shipwreck where the crew survived. He believes he can stop his ship from sinking.
According to the New York Times, AT&T was leading the wireless industry with over 71 million subscribers. Sprint, however, was trailing a distant third at 52.9 million and Mr. Hesse is looking for ways to close the gap.
When Sprint merged with Nextel, many customers jumped ship and employees threatened to follow suit.
Hesse, determined to make it better, not only distributed copies of a DVD documentary about an explorer named Earnest Shackleton and his ship as a motivational message that crews (subliminally saying employees) can survive devastating events but now, he is working on turning around Sprints biggest cancer: bad customer service.
When Sprint customers bailed, where did they turn? To the industry leaders, of course. But those jumpers weren't fleeing because of the merger. Customer service had been an ongoing issue with Sprint for quite some time.
Even the investors are fed up, as Sprint's share prices have plummeted nearly 60 percent since May of 2007, according to the NYT report.
So what is the former AT&T wireless guy doing that will bring "Shawshank" into redemption? What will save his crew and his sinking ship?
New commercials starring himself. Mr. Hesse had complained to his advertising agency that he had not liked earlier ads because they weren’t personal enough.
In the commercials, Mr. Hesse asks customers to e-mail him with complaints and to give Sprint another chance. In what it calls its most successful ad campaign in years, Sprint has received thousands of e-mail messages from customers who are only too happy to give Mr. Hesse a piece of their mind.
More people answering calls in the customer service operations so 80 percent of calls are handled within 30 seconds.
Bettering competitive edge like cutting the price of unlimited voice and data plans to $99
Digging deep into the corporate culture was probably the ugliest issue of all, according to Hesse who said "“the more honest the discussions, the uglier it got.” He still has not announced a management team, giving mid-level management an opportunity to speak up and tell who was promotion worthy. Water cooler truth revealed, which is quite the opposite of most new CEO's who jump right in with their choice execs and best buds from previous places of employment.
Hopefully, Hesse will be able to undo some of the cyclical damage caused by the horrible customer service Sprint has failed to provide its customers in the past. In quarter one of 2008 alone, they lost 1.1 million customers to being unhappy. The disgruntled customers create negative media coverage and reports, thereby impacting them further, not to mention the employee moral fallout.
As Captain Hesse makes changes to his crew and current and potential new customers alike, Sprint's standing in the Wireless Industry has the potential to gain subscribers and maybe even switch places with other leaders.
Time will tell.
More about Sprint nextel, Subscribers, Hesse
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