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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.

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