No matter what anyone says, Sprint just does not get it. The business model changes, the personnel changes, and yet the basic service, and customer service stay the same.
The service is better, but still the coverage and signal quality are poorer than most other carriers. The service plans have gotten more expensive, and yet when the company comes out with an unlimited plan that most will not wish to use, the corporate powers act as though they have invented perpetual motion. The company still does not get that no matter how wonderful the plan seems, if it is not usable, because of service limitations, then it is of no good, and not a good value. ( If I tell you that you can have unlimited service for 25 cents per week, and yet you cannot use your phone where you live and work, you have wasted your 25 cents.)
Because Sprint is not Microsoft, and does not have a virtually captive audience, they cannot be as cavalier with the customer base. Since the Sprint people have not learned this, they seem to have lost another million customers.
The number of subscribers for Sprint’s current 3G services fell to 52.8 million for the first quarter of 2008, down from 53.6 million during the same period a year ago.
Despite some gains in prepaid customers, Sprint lost 1.07 million post-paid subscribers, or customers who pay monthly cell phone bills.
In contrast, AT&T and Verizon Wireless each recently announced quarterly gains in wireless customers, implying that Sprint is losing market share in its current 3G business to those two rivals.
Last week’s announcement of a WiMAX spinoff by Sprint and Clearwire — funded by $3.2 billion in investments from Google, Intel Capital, Comcast, Time Warner, and Bright House Networks — raised the possibility that Sprint might leapfrog over AT&T and Verizon in the future 4G space.
The WiMax deal also calls for some new commercial relationships around 3G wireless that look likely to give Sprint a revenue boost.
But for the current quarter, at least, Sprint is forecasting only modest improvements to its financial picture.
During the first quarter, Sprint launched a new marketing campaign, along with a $99.99 per month unlimited calling and data plan, which brings pricing for current wireless services below those of AT&T and Verizon.
In a conference call with analysts, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse suggested that Sprint is still considering some sort of sale or spinoff of its acquired Nextel business, which has given rise to many of the subscriber losses due to technical problems with Nextel’s iDEN network.
At the VON.x conference at the end of March, Sprint talked in the direction of building an IP-based “Unified Service Architecture” to serve as the basis for iDEN, WiMAX, and Spring’s long-time CDMA network.
Sprint is still “committed to” former Nextel subscribers in its current customer base, Hesse said today. But “nothing is off the table completely,” according to the Sprint CEO.
Where Sprint went wrong here is that the Nextel customer base was very loyal, and very lucrative, yet the takeover showed Sprint treating the Nextel customer base, and the tower system, like so many things to be trampled over and forgotten. If Sprint had properly worked with the Nextel customers, and grown the network to alleviate congestion, they could have simply said ‘Hasta la vista!’ to the CDMA customers, as they were already sickened of the poor network performance and surly customer service.
Quote of the day:
Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows. – David T. Wolf
[tags] Sprint, Nextel, subscriber loss, customer service, network problems, iDEN, CDMA, WiMAX [/tags]