Sprint ad and complaintsSprint is definitely thinking out of the book with its cheeky, even snarky marketing of wireless services. They’re shaking up other providers with lower rates and new calling plans, even offering to pay early termination fees for customers defecting from their competitors.

But when it comes to the many ugly customer complaints on their Facebook page, Sprint is curiously low-key.

They do a good job of using Facebook to promote their “Framily” pricing plans, which give customers volume discounts if they get friends and not just family members to join Sprint. But Facebook, or any other social media, is about conversations, not one-way talking at customers. And this is where Sprint falls short.

Hamsters, Not Answers

I looked up Sprint’s Facebook page while writing for a client about mobile providers’ use of social media. Sprint uses a lot of offbeat graphics, including a hipster named “Gordon” and a hamster labeled “Dad” (???) to promote its offerings. But most of the customer comments I saw on the page complained, often profanely, about poor network coverage, dropped calls, misleading sales tactics and poor customer service. Some examples:

  • “If you love someone you would tell them to never sign up for Sprint.”
  • “Have not been able to make a single call all day, service is terrible and drops my calls every time.”
  • ”You have the worst service ever offered by any phone company! Switching to another carrier!”

Clicking on “replies” link showed what you would expect: Beleaguered Sprint customer service reps doing their best to apologize and promising to look into the issues. But without delving into the replies, all a prospect sees is an embarrassing and almost clueless contrast between Sprint’s cute marketing and the all-too-believable rants of frustrated customers.

What’s going on here, and what does it mean for you and your use of social media for content marketing? As with your customer complaints, fixing the underlying problems could take months or years. In the meantime, Sprint (and you) could fight back by showing it recognizes the problems and, as I’ve advised elsewhere, be very up-front about addressing the root causes.

Talk to, Not At, the Customer

First, stop mixing upbeat, cute marketing with outraged customer comments while hiding your response. It makes you look clueless.

Sprint’s big promo spots are all about what you want to tell the customer, not what the customer wants to tell you. Replace, say, the hamster with an outraged customer looking at their phone with a headline “Slow Web downloads? Click here for quick suggested fixes or to chat with a rep…” Do the same for billing issues, problems with new phones, or other frequent complaints.

Having been in the position of wanting to strangle my cable provider, I might even respond to a large graphic that says “Ready to get rid of us? Click here to let us try one, last time to keep you.”

Or how about a link to a blog by the head of customer service with regular updates on what Sprint is doing to overhaul its billing systems? Or a Zip code by Zip code update on when new towers are going into problem areas, which might convince customers to hang in with Sprint rather than defecting to the competition?

Yes, each of these options serves to highlight Sprint’s fallings. But their customers already know, and prospects are smart enough to look past your ads to the real market feedback. Sprint could get a lot of free publicity for its improvement effort by highlighting how its addressing customer complaints, rather than hunkering down in a series of “We’re sorry you’re experiencing problems” replies.

Check out Sprint’s Facebook page and let me know how you would change it, and how you’ve dealt with being “hated” rather than “liked” online.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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