Ode to Sprint: Somebody Calls You, You Answer Quite Slowly

As I write this, I’m listening to twangy guitar music that calls up vague images of big spiny cactus, dust, and a riderless swaybacked horse. Lots of dust. I’ve been listening to the same few bars for 43 minutes and counting.

Every few seconds, the music is interrupted by this: “We apologize for the wait. We are currently experiencing higher than normal volumes and long hold times. If you do not wish to wait, please hang up and call back at a later time, or you may stay on the line, and the next available representative will assist you.”

I’m on hold on Sprint’s fraud management line. (It’s 1-888-788-0788 if you’d like to hear the music.)

I decided to wait for the next available representative, because I previously wasted about 30 minutes trying to navigate Sprint’s customer service line but was unsuccessful at reaching a human. I did speak to a human at my local Sprint store, who couldn’t do anything to help me other than give me this great number.

Grinch Foiled

If someone were to pick up, here’s what I would say: Back around Christmas time, some unauthorized person accessed my account, ordered a couple of iPhones, and tried to set up a couple of new lines. (Thanks, Yahoo.) Because my account was set up for autopay, and since it happened around the holidays, the charges might have gone unnoticed for quite a while.

I’m glad Sprint’s fraud management folks were on their toes and thwarted the crime. In order to protect my account, Sprint erased my online profile and canceled my autopay. I was told I’d get my future bills in the mail, and I should pay only my usual monthly charges, even if I were billed for more.

Well, that seemed inconvenient but necessary, so I heaved a sigh and went on with my life.

Can You Feel My Pain?

I didn’t receive anything in the mail from Sprint, though — no acknowledgment that a fraud had occurred, no monthly statement, no nothing. However, this week, I got an email saying that a larger-than-usual payment was due.

I attempted to log on to my account but found that Sprint no longer knew me online. Neither my old user name nor my current email address were recognized. I called Sprint’s customer service number and got caught on the automation wheel of hell. There’s no selection for “representative.” Don’t press zero in the hope of getting a Sprint operator — it just disconnects you.

I couldn’t find a customer support email address — the billing email I’d received warned me not to bother trying to reply. I found no opportunity to chat online — I guess online chat is only for customers. Oh yeah, I’m a customer.

Cue the Indiana Jones Music

Wow. At 1 hour, 4 minutes, Robert answered — a real guy! We spoke for about a minute, and he apologized for the long wait. After a bit of checking, he acknowledged that what I’d told him was right. Then he put me on hold again.

The annoying robo-message was different, but the delightful music was the same.

When Robert returned, he had a solution for my problem. He walked me through re-establishing my online profile and was patient when I made a good many mistakes, which I doubt I would have made if my head hadn’t been filled with that effing guitar music or about to explode from the extra-large dose of frustration.

My call with Sprint ended at just over the 1:20 mark.

Unfaithfully Yours

Robert gets an A+ for being helpful and good-natured, particularly since I’m guessing everyone he speaks to has been waiting too long and is annoyed to the nth degree.

Sprint gets a C-. I’ll give the company credit for catching the fraud proactively (though its own money was at stake, of course). It also gets points because the humans in its employ actually wanted to be helpful and eventually did solve my problem.

However, Sprint clearly has adopted a “customer service” system that’s designed to push customers away instead of embracing them. It doesn’t seem to have a strong desire to instill loyalty and trust. It’s beyond ironic that a communications service provider is so horrible at communicating.

Sprint, I’d like to introduce you to Amazon. I think you could benefit by following Amazon around for a few days to observe the way it treats its customers. Amazon does it right, and it gets lots of my money, along with my enthusiastic word-of-mouth praise, for treating me so well. We’ve been together for years, and I hope to grow very old with Amazon at my side.

I want you to love me the way Amazon does, Sprint — and if you do, I might just return the affection. The way I’m feeling about you now, though, we’ve got very little chance at a long-term relationship. In fact, I think I’ll check right now to see when my contract is up.

Mick Brady is managing editor of ECT News Network.

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