Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Sprint h…

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Sprint had a good thing going. They were the first landline long distance company (at the time called US Sprint) to roll out fixed rate long distance at 10 cents a minute — a move that was genius in its simplicity, and forever pulled back the black curtain behind which whopping long-distance bills were generated by other carriers.

Sprint also had a great campaign. Remember the pin drop? Everyone remembers the pin drop — and the very cool, ultra hip FON card? Way cooler than even a gold AMEX at the time — and again, simple to use. Dial an 800 number, make a long distance call, and bill it to your home. Just that easy.

So, not suprisingly, when Sprint decided to roll out cell phone service, I was the first in line, and about 10 years ago, I picked up my first Sprint PCS phone. It was a hot little SONY number made by Qualcom, with a futuristic pull down thing that you talked into. Very cool, and simple to use.

That’s where the simplicity ends, with Sprint the product was always cool, techno-savvy, simple, and fuelled by cutting edge technology. That’s all well and good — especially because it was so well done, Sprint didn’t need to have much customer service, essentially, the machine ran itself.

Well, as we know now, cell phone users want service, both in terms of coverage, and in terms of customer service. And that was where Sprint started to fall apart. Their coverage sucked — really sucked — and their customer service sucked more. Sprint PCS never really ‘got it’ the way that the old US Sprint did — simplicity is what the customer is looking for. If, at the time, Sprint had introduced flat rate cell service, they would be the market leader today. Instead, they instituted a complicated charge scheme, which caused a lot of angry customers, coupled with poor coverage and lousy support, it was a recipe for disaster.

Then, Sprint acquired Nextel. More complication more confusion, and less quality (not to mention a significantly more deficient logo). So what happened? How did this forward-looking, #1, blazing-ahead-at-full-speed company become the bottom feeder? And more importantly, for the folks at Sprint… how do they climb back?

My vote: simplicity. Go back to a hip, simple service — and make the customer service stellar. In essence, make the service what Apple would offer if they were a phone company. And do it fast, because Apple is warming up the oven, and if Sprint doesn’t, well, sprint, they may just get left behind.

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