Skip to main content

Don't Let the Door Hit You...

On Monday, Sprint Nextel kicked its 1000 most annoying customers off of its network. While it's no surprise cell phone companies have the most complaints filed against them at the BBB, it's also not surprising to find out that "professional complainers" are trying to take them to the cleaners. According to sources, these customers made 50 times as many complaint calls to Sprint help-lines as the average customer. I applaud Sprint Nextel for doing what every company dreams of doing but rarely does. I fact, I give Sprint a standing ovation.

Having worked in customer service for many years I know how these professional complainers operate: they complain that there are too many pepperonis on their pizza; they complain because the volume at the movies is too loud; they complain that the lines are too long at the grocery store; and they want to be comped for everything. These people have a flawed perception of reality and believe that the world is perfect, and anything less than perfection is somehow a hindrance to them. They believe the they're holding the cards, because, after all, you wouldn't want to lose their business.

Sprint has figured out something important: they do want to lose their business, because these professional complainers cost the company time and money. What good is it to have your customer support team spending hours on the phone with these people and neglecting the honest customers? What good is it to comp the complainers when they don't intend to pay for anything anyways? Don't get me wrong, I think good customer service is critical to these types of businesses. But what Sprint is doing isn't poor customer service, quite the opposite, actually! Professional complainers will never be satisfied; now Sprint can devote more of its resources to helping the honest customers looking for honest help.

This isn't even the first time I've heard about something like this being done. In a book about my favorite company, Southwest Airlines, there is a story about a woman who was a professional complainer. She literally complained about everything she could think of: she didn't like the boarding process, she didn't like the casual uniforms the employees wore, she didn't like the fact that Southwest didn't offer first class. Southwest, being the best airline in the business, responded to this woman every time, explaining the reason for these policies: unassigned seats made for quicker boarding, many customers felt relaxed with the casual uniforms, and not offering first class allows the company to offer low cost tickets to everyone. Nevertheless, this woman was relentless, yet always flew on Southwest (quite a divergence in my opinion). Eventually the CEO at the time, Herb Kelleher, personally wrote this woman and said something to the effect of: "We're sorry that Southwest cannot suit all of your needs, we hope you find what you are looking for at another airline." - Thank you, Herb!

The funny thing about professional complainers is that they somehow believe that being a huge jerk and making big empty threats will somehow motivate a business to give them better service. I think anyone who has ever worked in customer service will agree with me here - the bigger of a jerk you are as a customer, the worse your service will be. I guarantee professional complainers have had their food spat in far more than your average customer.


Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':

Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…