Michael F Kelly, that’s me, is and has been a Sprint PCS customer for over 5 years and currently has a three year old phone. While a loyal customer, I have considered moving to another mobile provider recently, like millions of other Sprint customers. But, I should at least have a good reason to go or stay. So I decided to reconsider their latest offer to me that came in the mail today.
I am also CEO of a market research company whose goal is to get marketing people to think like customers. So, I offer this description of my experience with a recent Sprint offer.
I received the ‘Make your wireless dreams a reality’ mailer, June 17, 2008.
I am looking for a new device, a phone with email, good size screen, keyboard not phone pad, GPS, etc. I sorted the mail, and took the brochure with me after dinner to look over early in the evening.
Sprint (S): “Make your wireless dreams a reality. You’re eligible for discounts on a new phone right now. Introducing the amazing new Samsung Instinct, coming soon.”
Mike (M): Nothing new there except the phone. They’ve been sending me these discount offers for months. Maybe there’s something new inside. So I open up the large mailer.
S: “When it comes to your next new phone, now anything is possible.” “We’ve got a special thank you just for you”, “You deserve our best national pricing”, We’re so confident, we’re giving you 30 days”, “There’s no time like the present”. “Lift here. Save up to $300 and start living your wireless dreams today.”
M: Rather breathless of them and while I don’t have much in the way of wireless dreams, I can appreciate that Sprint might want me to since Sprint is having so much trouble keeping customers these days. Anyway, I look at the three phones and read the details. The Samsung still looks most interesting to me. The special thank you of up to $300 off is attractive as is the promise of ‘best national pricing’ (whatever that is) and the 30 days trial is not new, but a good idea. I have no idea what the benefit to me is of the ‘blazing fast Now Network. So I’m still interested and want to know more about what device I can now get and what’s really new in this offer that warrants my dreams becoming reality and an anything is possible claim. So I open the mailer to the full size, bigger than a NYT page but with surprisingly little information on it. I’m also wondering how this fits with the $99 special pricing Sprint has been talking about. It’s not mentioned. So, I figure the Best National Pricing is being whispered to me as even better, because they recognize I am so loyal and special, as it says. I ‘lift here’ as directed, and have the inside shown to me - upside down.
S: Dream Big. Live Large. Then more about the three phones that deliver my wireless dreams and anything is possible. Then, at the bottom: “Introducing the simply everything plan’, and once again ‘ You’re eligible for our best national pricing”. And finally – ‘Hurry, limited time offer ends July 14, 2008.’ And below this, the usual fine print where, it is assumed, they will take away much of the dream.
M: Why is there no pricing on the phone I’m interested in and no explanation as to why there isn’t? That’s annoying. And now they are showing another phone that opens up to have a keyboard which might work for me. I twist and turn the mailer to see if this is a new phone or one that was on the other pages. It is. They didn’t show it open. I am really interested in the Instinct, and they promise a lot in the specs, but describe way too little in the text. With all this space why didn’t they tell me more? One has EVDO capable (what’s that and does the Instinct have it?). One has GPS, I guess the others don’t? I want GPS. What’s the accuracy of the GPS? How does it work? Should I return the new Garmin I just bought and use this instead? Does it show traffic? Is there an extra charge? Just what is this Simply Everything Plan and what IS the pricing? The brochure is silent on these things. Frustrating. If I want more info I have to go to the web site. Ugh. I have no real feel that this would work for me, or that this offer is any different from the past Sprint offers, which I have not accepted. They are possibly wasting my time.
So I fold up the expensive feeling, glitzy, breathless but ultimately clueless brochure and go to the web site.
At The Web Site
Well, at least it is talking about the same offer. But a quick glance at the page brings up some caution: the highest discount shown is now $150, not $300. There is only one antique looking phone shown, not the snazzy Instinct. What’s happening here? Where is the information that was missing from the brochure – the best national pricing, the simply everything plan, the details about the new Instinct? In fact, what do you click on to go to find this stuff. All it has is a way to enter my phone number and tell me that I’m eligible, which is what the brochure already did. I am frustrated, disappointed and am once again considering dropping Sprint for someone who can think like the customer and make sure that what they do, actually works. Then I notice that the expiration date on the web page is a year ago: July 15th 2007. Figures. They really are clueless. So much for the wireless dream.
The bottom line –
I can almost see the groups of dedicated advertising people huddled around the conference table hearing the presentation: Powerpoint “The Dream Campaign” - “Make your wireless dreams a reality” “Dream Big, Live Large” – and it’s a really, really big brochure. Get it? "And, and we'll say 'now anything is possible! Yes! rings out around the table. ' Another campaign built by people whose lives are advertising….. but not, unfortunately, customers of Sprint. If they were customers, they would know that breathless 'tricky' ads are seen as coverups and senseless to busy people looking for a solution to problems. Furthermore, the lack of information in the brochure which requires going to the web site is a barrier to be overcome, and then the lack of coordination with the web site brings the whole thing down to a disaster. This campaign, far from convincing me to sign up for another two years of Sprint, instead made me decide to look at other’s offerings.
This is not the kind of performance that Sprint needs to fix the
bleeding. And it’s a shame, because most
of these people ARE dedicated. So what
should be done?
Any suggestions? I don't think this is buying dangerously, that happens after a sale. What is it before the sale?