Sprint Customer Service Nightmare

Update: 1/29/06The very sweet manager at the local Sprint store defended me to the higher-ups and secured my insurance. Thank you, Duane. And thank you, Sprint. We’ll just put this matter behind us now and get back to the mutually beneficial relationship that we’ve had in the past… sound good?-Sarah

Attention Blogosphere: Sprint is providing me with extremely poor customer service right now to the point where I’m seriously angry, and they just don’t seem to care.Attention Sprint: If you’ll just resolve my issue, I’ll retract this public complaint and once again sing your praises to the world. I really don’t like being angry with you, but you’re displaying a level of incompetence right now that I just can’t accept.Generally, I’m pretty happy with Sprint. They have great coverage in the places I’ve lived. Their customer service is friendly. Their phones tend to have more features than most companies. Their new Fair and Flexible plan makes me jump for joy. They didn’t charge me a contract-breaking fee when my ex left my plan and started his own account. They even have a great website, which is something that matters to me. But they’re not treating me well right now, and I’m running out of options. We’re talking about 3 months of back-and-forth phone calls that have done no more than send me in circles, as well as a number of blatant customer service botches. Let me take you through the experience.

  1. I bought my Treo in mid-October. The sales rep was very cool, and I was very pleased with the experience. While I was checking out, he asked if I’d like insurance on my phone. I had been planning on asking about that, and was happy to hear him get there first. He explained that $6/mo will cover loss, theft, or any kind of physical damage, including dropping the phone down concrete stairs. Since I’m prone to dropping cell phones on streets and don’t want to pay for this expensive phone more than once, I eagerly said yes. $6/mo for peace of mind is a great deal. Sign me up.
  2. Later that month, I decided I didn’t need “video and picture mail,” and decided to take that off my account before its 30-day free trial ran out. I checked the website to see when that would be, and it was giving me a little more than 30 days–the rest of October, plus the next full month for the billing cycle. Thanks, Sprint! That was nice of you! So I decided to make the most of my free trial, and call them on the last few days of November.
  3. Around that time, I got my bill and noticed that the insurance wasn’t on it. Hey… that’s not cool, Sprint. Here, I’ve been thinking for the past month and a half that I had full insurance on this mini-laptop, and now you’re telling me that if I’d dropped it, it would have been gone. So I figured, I’m due for a Sprint call now anyway. I’ll fix this matter right up over the phone.
  4. I called as planned, and talked to a customer service rep. She was very friendly. “Yes, ma’am, I’ll remove your “video and picture mail” so you only have the basic PCS vision package, and I’ll add insurance. Would you like the $3/mo protection against mechanical defects or the full $6/mo protection against any damage or loss? Alright, I’m putting the full insurance on your account. Thank you very much and have a nice day.” Easy. Fabulous. Thanks!
  5. Here’s where things get start to ugly. On Dec 30, my ex and I walked into a Sprint store together to get him off of my plan and onto his own. Smooth changeover, no fees. Thanks again for being cool, Sprint! But while I was there, I asked the rep to double check the features on my account. Much to my surprise, there was no insurance listed, and I was still paying for “video and picture mail.” The rep I had talked to did absolutely nothing. I kindly explained that I’ve already asked for these changes, and would he please take care of them now. He removed the picture mail, but the insurance, he explained, was handled by another company and I’d need to call them directly. Okay, now I’m getting annoyed, but fine.
  6. The Sprint rep handed me their number and I called them right in front of him. The insurance rep I talked to explained that you need add the insurance within 30 days of purchasing the phone, and so they had deactivated the last sprint rep’s attempt to add it (since it was just over 30 days when I asked for it the second time). This was the first I had heard of the “30 day” rule, and I’ve now owned the phone for 2 and a half months, all the while thinking it was insured. Thanks, jerks. I explained my situation and called it “unacceptable.” The rep said he would submit a verification request to determine whether there had been a “human error,” and that I should call back in two business days. I asked how he planned to locate a human error when most likely, it was just never entered into the system. He said to call back in two business days.
  7. I called back as requested. The rep offered to submit a verification request. “That’s already been done,” I informed her. “I’m calling to check on its status.” She explained that the last rep submitted the request incorrectly, and she needed to submit it again. I explained my frustration and thanked her for work. She said try calling back in a day–they usually handle these things quickly.
  8. I called back two business days later. No news yet. Call back tomorrow.
  9. I called back five business days later (today). “I’m sorry, we haven’t heard back from Sprint yet. Call back in a few days.” I explained the situation once again, emphasizing how absurd this is becoming from my perspective — I’m a good customer who’s just trying to be a good customer, and you’re sending me around in circles. She said to call Sprint customer service and have them help. I explained that they had sent me here in the first place. She said, “If you talk to them, and have them call us with you on the line, we can better help you.” I thanked her for her assistance told her I’d be calling again soon.
  10. So I called Sprint. And explained my situation for what felt like the thousandth time. This rep and I spent a long time just fleshing out the details, with several long bouts of being on hold. All she had record of was the insurance company deactivating my insurance on December 9th. She had no record of the insurance being added at the end of November. She didn’t even have record of the phone being activated in the first place. As a result, she wouldn’t call the insurance company to defend me. She also criticized me for not asking customer service reps to make notes on my account each time I called, and said there was nothing she could do for me. I thanked her for doing what she could do, told her that this is a serious customer service issue to me, and asked her to transfer me to someone who had the authority to take care of it. She said the most she could do was transfer me to the T.E.P. department–Total Equipment Protection–and that maybe they could do something about it. I figured this was another department within Sprint, and thanked her for moving me forward.
  11. I waited on hold for a moment, and then heard the all-too-familiar phone menu for incoming calls to the insurance company. Her T.E.P. department was the external insurance company, and she was just sending me through as a normal call. What the hell? Did I do something to deserve this karma? I gave up on the running-in-circles game and hung up the phone.

Sprint, I would like you to know that Verizon is looking real good right now, and it might be worth that cancellation fee just to escape this poor service. Seriously. Just give me some insurance. What more do I need to do to remedy your series of errors?

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5 Responses to “Sprint Customer Service Nightmare”

  1. Stephen A. Smith Says:

    I’ve been there. You’ve got a problem that doesn’t fit their script and you know your minimum-wage operator is powerless; so you politely explain your problem and ask, “Please transfer me to someone who can help.”

    Except that person doesn’t exist. Or he does exist, but there’s no direct connection between him and your operator. Maybe it’s because the company has become monolithic. Maybe it’s because the company has been fractured into a dozen outsourced departments. Either way, you’re screwed.

    I’ve worked for Newbury Comics, and I’ve worked for Barnes & Noble. The former had 21 stores, each run in a slightly different way by 21 autonomous managers. Barnes & Noble has more than 800 stores across the country. Their managers receive checklists of daily tasks, prepared at the corporate level. There’s no autonomy. There’s no discretion. I’ve seen their job, and it’s virtually indistinguishable from a cashwrap clerk.

    American companies shift power toward the top of the pyramid. They anticipate problems and script solutions that employees are instructed to follow exactly; they’re not permitted to improvise, and they don’t have the ability if they wanted to. But the bigger the pyramid grows, the higher the top rises, and the farther the decision makers get from ground level where the unexpected occurs every day. Their rolodex of predicted solutions develops cracks; and when something slips between those cracks, it’s gone.

  2. Charles Shrum Says:

    This is the message I recently sent to Sprint due to the Situation I encountered.

    I need to speak with someone in reference to customer service. I have dialed *2 on my cell phone and spoken with a supervisor named Leslie, and she assured me her supervisor Neriah Clark would call me back within 24 hours, that was a little less than 4 weeks ago and I still have’nt heard from him. Basically I have a daughter that was just born and immediatley needed surgery and is still currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Around the time she had surgery my phone service had been interupted for an unknown reason, my bill had already been paid and nothing was owed, as a matter of fact it had been over paid, I have a habit of doing that. When I was on the phone with Leslie and tried to explain the situation to her and why it was such an emergency that my phone had to work so my daughters doctors could get in touch with me she responded ” What does your daughter have to do with this? Does she pay the bill, is she on the account, if not her situation doesn’t concern me.” I was furious, and the only reason I am still with Sprint is because of my history with them. So if you could I’m asking please have supervisor contact me immediatley, if only to point me in the right direction. Thank

  3. Kenneth Hein Says:

    Writing a piece about Sprint customer service, would love your thoughts, shoot me an e-mail.

  4. Scott Wilson Says:

    My wife and I had an old phone that we wanted to add to our plan if it wasn’t expensive. I called and the rep said that she would send out a new phone and that it would only cost $10 (after an adjustment to take effect the next day) per month, but that I had to call the next day to confirm. When asked if a new contract was needed she said no extension required, that I was “entitled to a new phone”. This phone was rarely used only set aside for some friends from out of the country that visited 1x per year.

    The net increase of my bill after this fraudulent misrepresentation was about $80 per month higher than normal. I called several times to get an understanding of what happened… however, no one could tell me. The reps would just walk through the existing plan with no real insight into the changes in my plan that occurred.

    Several months later, I started noticing various additions of services on my bill (internet, texting etc to the phone we rarely used). Because they deducted my payment amount directly from my bank account, I didn’t notice the actual additions for months after the fraudulent charges. I called several times to complain. After waiting and waiting to talk to someone who could help me, being transferred to the wrong people, or being told they don’t have the authority to help me, they said they could not reverse charges if it went back 90 days. I challenged Sprint to come up with proof that I ever ordered the services, but they had no interest in researching this, they simply repeated policy.

    I requested to speak with management and never was able to connect with a real manager, but told they would call me back. No manager ever called me back. I was hung up on 3x by their Sprint phone system when transferring all in one day.

    I decided to go into 2 different stores and try to get this resolved only to be told the retail stores did not do this. The second store (in Long Beach, CA) told me that the system had me flagged as a “white glove” customer. I don’t know what that means, but I was offended that they “flagged” me. I am a business owner and would never prejudice the people that work for me toward a customer. I was always professional on the phone, and so I do not understand their system for flagging customers.

    After failing to get extraneous charges removed from my bill, and when they failed to prove that I had authorized additional services to my account, I told Sprint that the misrepresentation and fraud was cause for me to part ways after several years as a customer. They told me then that I was still stuck in a contract, but I told Sprint that could not be right. This is when I found out (over a year after adding the additional phone…and paying about $80 more per month for it even though it was never used), that they wanted an early termination fee on top of it.

    And so another round of calls over a period of 3 months ensued. I demanded to speak to complaints department, customer retention dept, etc… and was routed finally to someone who promised to clear my account and let me go. A month later, I got a bill for $250 or so. So I called again and then again, bounced around to various reps and never allowed to talk to a manager. I convinced a second person to reverse the charge and let me leave. This time I asked if this was documented in the system and how can I be sure I wouldn’t receive a bill. I was verbally assured. Then the next month I started getting bills again and then they sent it to collections.

    To top it all off, I was also told when calling back that the previous reps did not diligently create their notes in the system. The only notes that seemed to exist in the end were notes that flattered or supported their internal policies and not what they actual promised or communicated to me.

    The last conversations I had were with Ashley (a supervisor) who stated that their policy is to follow the notes and the notes were thin. I recounted my previous conversations and she said they only documented that the charges were valid. She kept repeating that policy even when I told Sprint that their had been fraudulent charges, etc.. and that I had to get out of the relationship and they should be just and true and allow me to leave since they took a lot of money from me already. She would not elevate further when asked to speak with a manager. Asked again to escalate. Ahsley put me on hold for a Manager, then promptly hung up on me.

    Called back and spoke with Michelle Kelly. Explained the whole thing again. She promised to put a note in the system to have manager call me (Scott Goldwire or Dina Firhan) on Monday June 2, 2008. She confirmed that she could reverse the charges but would not per policy. I never received a call back.

    All told these random and repeated disputes that Sprint caused by flagrant neglect of proper customer handling, fraudulent charges, lack of employee training and worst of all, a breakdown of an ethical corporate culture, is incomprehensible still. I cannot believe that after years with Sprint, they were not willing to meet me half way. I was willing to forgive many of their sins if they simply would help me, but they had every excuse not to.

    I loved Sprint until the mistakes started happening and then found out too late that they have no effective process for righting misrepresentations and fraud by their representatives. Their internal policies put the burden of proof on the customer, even when a wrong is perpetrated directly against the customer. And the notes Sprint relies upon are ( I feel confident in saying this) purposely thin to provide deniability. Even the times that I have requested the rep to read back their notes, they refused.

    Please help me. I have never been more mistreated by any company. I have 15 years of audit expeerience in my profession and am still absolutely stymied that they can still be in business, have not been sued in masse, and can be allowed to operate so recklessly for so prolonged a period.

    I estimate that just the value of my wasted time is several hundreds of dollars. I figure that since I have already wasted untold hours and frustration and money, I may as well file complaint with the BBB, FTC, FCC and every blog I find that will allow me to warn them of Sprint’s unrestrained and flagrant abuse of a very loyal customer.

  5. sarah Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I’m so sorry about your crisis!
    What eventually solved the problem for me was going into a physical store and patiently/kindly/persistently asking questions until I spoke with a manage who could help me. Even he didn’t have the authority to solve the problem, but he had the authority to inquire to the higher ups about it. He called me a week later with the problem solved. I went into the store the next day with a box of chocolates and a hug for him.

    The epilogue of the story is that I just bought an iPhone yesterday and switched to AT&T. I think Sprint’s going to through a rough spot right now. Do what you can do, pull the strings you can pull, and be willing to cut your losses when it’s not worth it anymore. What’s a $150 contract cancellation fee against five years of good service with a different company?
    Sarah