Monday, November 8, 2010

The failure of outsourcing at Sprint Pt. 2

After 2+ years of legal battles, an attempt to merge incompatible networks and quarter after quarter of customers abandoning ship in every available lifeboat, a certain cell phone company had enough. A CEO was given his $50+ million golden parachute and the layoffs and cost cutting began. Yet, the lesson on outsourcing still had not been learned as the company continued to outsource as many accounts as they could overseas, somehow believing that this would save overhead costs as customers continued to leave in droves. High value customers were identified by the system and were routed to US callcenters, often in their region. Perhaps the company was not as stupid as we would have them believe.

It turns out that indeed, if you spent enough money with the company, you earned the privilege of speaking with someone who was likely within a 1,000 miles of you, got a living wage and a healthcare plan that helped pay for the cost of the anti-anxiety medication and psychiatric sessions many of us needed just to keep us from finally going postal. So, in a way, customers had their own little caste system imposed on them. If you spent less than $69.99 a month per line, unless you planned on canceling your service, you were probably going to spend the next couple of months speaking to 15 different people, all named "Bob" oddly enough, in Manila or New Delhi. Even if you did plan on canceling service, chances were, it would take a couple months and hours on the phone to accomplish that as well.

As mergers went through and customers defected faster than a Cuban baseball team, "retention reps" were tasked with the monumental task of dangling money and free phones in front of customers who couldn't wait to leave. If all else failed, it was common practice to pretend to cancel the line, claim commission credit for "saving" it, then 3 months later "Bob" in Manila would get to speak to an irate customer who needed to be credited back for 3 months of service they should not have been charged for. Meanwhile, managers and reps snapped up thousands of dollars monthly in undeserved bonuses while "Bob" continued to blindly transfer customers across the company in search of someone who would finally end the nightmare for a customer who tried to end it months ago. So in a way, outsourced reps were getting it from both sides, the customers and employees alike. Still, the company that thought it would benefit from snapping up a smaller company that had extremely loyal and high value customers could not grasp the very reason that kept them there was the fact that there was comparatively little outsourcing. A stable billing system, unique product and sports sponsorships also contributed to the brand loyalty that every company craved.

Today, that company with a unique product and brand loyalty is on life support, existing as nothing except a shadow of it's former self. The focus groups and board meetings went on....

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