Sprint's Knowledge Advantage

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Deep customer insight has led to customer experience improvements that are helping the telecom grow its subscriber base.

Sprint's subscriber base is mushrooming. The company achieved its best total company wireless net subscriber additions in five years, adding more than 1.1 million net wireless subscribers and 310,000 net postpaid subscribers. In addition, Sprint also achieved its best-ever postpaid churn (1.81 percent) and its lowest prepaid churn (4.36 percent) in more than five years. The company's leaders attribute the subscriber growth and churn reduction, in part, to its efforts to enhance the customer experience.

Here, Deeanne King, vice president, customer care, at Sprint, discusses how having deeper insight into the customer experience has led to the recent customer windfall.

1to1 Magazine: Sprint announced some impressive results in April. What do you attribute these successes to?

Deeanne King: Focus.Our CEO, Dan Hesse, has three priorities that keep the company focused. They are:

1. Customer experience

2. Brand

3. Cash

1to1: Sprint is using customer experience analytics to gain a deeper knowledge of its customers. How has this helped Sprint better understand how specific interactions and experiences impact them?

DK: We use ClickFoxto understand how our customers do business with Sprint.This increased visibility allows us to identify IVR usability, call routing, and process improvement opportunities.

We use the information to address different types of customer inquiries to optimize the experience across [customer] care, the Web, and retail channels to make it easier for our customers to do business with us.

1to1: Have you also gained insight into how the customer experience impacts churn and retention?

DK: We know that our customers like to get to the right agent as quickly as possible to get their issue resolved the first time.We used those insights to focus on reducing call transfers, after data showed that having to speak with multiple customer service representatives negatively impacted customer satisfaction rankings, and ultimately, churn.We know that bottom-box CSAT customers churn at a significantly higher rate, and we just announced last week that we continue to deliver best-ever bottom-box lows from insights such as this.

1to1: Based on the insight you gather, how are you reshaping customer support and service and aligning them with customers' specific needs?

DK: This is a very complicated business, both in the evolution of device complexity and from customer dependence on these devices as consumers cut the cord and rely on mobile solely to interact with family, friends, and business associates.

The first thing we do is recognize that this device is our customers' lifeline and when something isn't working, we have to help them as quickly as possible.In Care, we do everything we can to troubleshoot and solve the problem over the phone, but there are times when the best thing is to get the customer to one of our retail stores for hands-on triage.As a result, we have an amazing partnership with our retail channel to make sure the experience is a great one, from the hand-off to the resolution.We are more aligned than we've ever been.

We are also evolving our self-service options for those customers who are interested in helping themselves.Our website plays an important role in the customer experience and it is recognized as a leader in our industry because it provides the necessary information and tools for customers to receive answers to their questions and get help online, as well as on their device with our Sprint Zone Android application.We also have an area on the website where customers can post comments and share their experiences about products or services that have worked and ones that have not.

Finally, in Care, we have experts on each of the device operating systems who can answer all technical questions.Instead of expecting our agents to know every aspect about all the devices that we've offered over the past 10-plus years, we've aligned these devices by operating system, allowing our agents to be adept at a certain type of call and all the aspects associated with that particular device.

1to1: The telecom industry gets frequently criticized in customer satisfaction polls. What have been Sprint's efforts to overcome negative public perception?

DK: First, it's one of our top three priorities, so we have every employee in the company pitching in.Customer service isn't just what happens between the four walls of a call center or a retail store; it's everyone's job, even the employees designing the specs for the network, the next product, or a device.We now have every employee thinking about the customer experience in all that we do.

Not only does the telecom industry have a low reputation in customer service satisfaction reviews, but Sprint historically did, too.With our laser focus on customer experience improvement, Sprint is bucking those trends.This year we ranked high on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which showed that Sprint is unbeaten among major wireless carriers for customer satisfaction and is the number one "most improved" company in customer satisfaction for the past three years across all industries.We also just announced our 14th consecutive quarter of customer satisfaction improvement, along with a number of external third-party acknowledgements of our results.

1to1: Sprint was also recently named a J.D. Power 2011 Customer Service Champion. What does this mean to the company?

DK: This was a tremendous honor.There were more than 800 companies considered, and only 40 selected that demonstrated the high standards of JD Power. The past several-years' journey on customer experience has been hard work and it was great confirmation to have JD Power & Associates recognize our efforts.