Tuesday, July 10, 2007

If In Doubt, Drop the Customer

I'm not advocating dropping customers if you're in doubt. But what do you do with customers who complain too much? And what exactly do you regard as a complaint?

I made fun of Reuters for acting as Sprint's Corporate Spokesperson in an "article" yesterday about Sprint dropping customers who called customer service too much. My question is, of course, why were customers calling customer service frequently enough to trigger a drop? And how frequently were they calling? And what were they calling about? I expect they probably had an actual problem, but we're not going to find out from the actual article, which lacks any journalistic sense of investigation and quotes Sprint extensively.

GhostGirl says that dropping customers makes business sense. I agree to an extent because I drop customers as a business practice too, though not routinely. And I can tell you exactly what triggers a drop by me:

1. Not Paying Me
2. Constant Requests for Changes
3. Unethical Practices

And each client I consider dropping is always given a very specific warning (e.g., "I would love to keep working with you, but may not be able to after the end of July because you haven't been paying me according to the guidelines in the contract." At that point, they can choose to correct their behavior. Or not. Sprint didn't give any warning.

But I am a sole proprietorship, and not a privately-owned utility as Sprint is. And having been on the board of a private utility, I will tell you that Sprint, no doubt, has very specific rules in terms of how and when customers are dropped. Our private utility shared those rules with customers. But Sprint isn't sharing, which strikes me as unethical.

So it's not the dropping of customers that bothers me per se, it is the lack of transparency in the process, which seems deliberate and intentional. If I suspect as a Sprint customer that I'm going to be dropped simply for calling customer service, I'll call less or not at all. In fact, upon reading the article, distributed by Reuters, many Sprint customers may call much less. It's actually brilliant in a diabolical sort of way.