Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sprint Empowers "Social Media Ninjas" to Help in Turnaround

Today I'm happy and privileged to host a blog post by Bob Thompson, author of Hooked on Customers.

In 2007, Sprint’s customer satisfaction rating was 61, worst in the wireless telecom industry by a wide margin. Fast forward five years and CEO Dan Hesse had accomplished an amazing turnaround. Sprint’s ACSI score climbed ten points to an industry-leading 71—the biggest improvement of any company in any industry—and was ranked number one in call center satisfaction.

How did Hesse do it? Given the bleak situation, he could have continued to slash costs, hunker down, and hope for a buyer to rescue the company. Instead, taking a customer-centric approach, he directed the organization to fix its customer service problems and innovate to increase value to customers.

No doubt low morale was a factor in poor customer experiences. In the commentary surrounding the "Sprint 1000" debacle (the company fired customers due to excessive support requests), many said that the calls were the result of dealing with Sprint employees who could not take care of a problem, getting transferred around, and even being dropped and having to call back. In short, customers wanted more “one and done” calls.

I’ve written previously that authority, insights, and motivation are key to empowering call center agents to improve first call resolution (FCR) and delight customers. Sprint has invested in an array of call center technologies and software applications to help agents resolve service requests more effectively. However, it’s not clear that any specific solution had a transformative impact. Rather, it was Hesse’s decision to make customer experience a corporate goal, and the use of analytics to focus on the right problems, that made the biggest difference, in my view.

I do think Sprint made innovative use of social media to empower its employees to serve as “ambassadors” for the company. An offshoot of its “Employees Helping Customers” initiative, Social Media Ninjas was launched in 2010 to help improve Sprint’s reputation using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Jennifer Sniderman, Sprint’s group manager of employee communications, said the program was inspired by discussions about “how to leverage outreach to customers as a competitive advantage.” Customers were taking to social media to vent about problems, so why not equip Sprint employees to engage and help? Sniderman said Ninjas were asked to “have an authentic conversation, talk about what you know, be friendly, help when you can, and answer questions.”

All too often, support issues are dumped on the contact center, including problems created in product development, marketing, or elsewhere. Sprint’s Social Media Ninjas program is a brilliant use of social media to unleash the influence of thousands of employees to rebuild its brand. As of December 2012, 2,700 Ninjas were helping to improve Sprint’s reputation using their personal networks to engage with customers. Inviting all employees to lend a hand helping customers also sends a message that delivering a great customer experience is everyone’s responsibility.

By 2013 employee morale had noticeably improved. On Glassdoor, one account executive employed for eight years called his experience a “wild, awesome ride” and gives Sprint management good marks for innovation, cleaning out poor performers, and listening to employees. Hesse has earned a 79 percent approval rating, significantly better than his peers at major wireless carriers.

About Bob
Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of, the world's largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.

For more information visit

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hooked On Customers

Listen – Think – Empower – Create – Delight.  There ya go, the 5 key organizational habits of customer-centric companies.  Some of you will say, “got it” . . . and fail.  Others will become curious and read Robert Thompson’s new book, HookedOn Customers: The Five Habits of Legendary Customer-Centric Companies . . . and succeed.  Bob gives us an abundance of research, interviews, and examples to help you outline your path to customer-centric success.

Contrary to what it should be, customer service is quite often just a department in many organizations.  It’s handled in one area by a few employees.  Customer-centric organizations, on the other hand, embrace the customer throughout the organization.  Bob takes a look at how various organizations do it right . . . and wrong – Home Depot, Apple, Best Western, JC Penny, Ryanair, Wells Fargo, Zappos (you’ll have to read the book to find out who’s good or not).

So many organizations focus too much just on the “hello’s” and “thank you’s”.  Those are all great – and needed, but Bob sums it up well when he says, “driving consumer loyalty is not as simple as providing great service.  Providing “the right stuff” at a fair price is still critical”.  What’s also critical are employee efforts in creating a desirable brand.  Keep in mind that your employees ARE part of your brand.

There’s no “best method” for driving loyalty but along with his years of research, Bob provides some very important questions to ask in order to know what to measure in your own research and development.

Bob Thompson is founder and CEO of research and publishing firm CustomerThink Corporation and editor-in-chief of, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and execute customer-centric business strategies. An author, keynote speaker and international authority on business management trends, he has been a thought leader in customer-centricity since 1998. Bob’s new book, Hooked on Customers, is now available on Amazon. Follow Bob on Twitter: @Bob_Thompson, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Raise Your Voice

The new book, RaiseYour Voice: A Cause Manifesto, by Brian Sooy, was such a
surprise.  It’s geared toward the non-profit sector and having worked there for the past 14 years it looked like it would be interesting.  What I didn’t realize is how applicable it would be to most any organization.

Brian’s book helps you to stop and ask some important questions.  Questions that too many organizations just don’t take the time to ask or don’t ask because they may realize they’re heading in the opposite direction.

What you’ll learn in this book, I think, is pretty well summed up on Page 2:  “A nonprofit should not be perceived as a soulless corporation, but as a group of individuals who want to make a difference, to change the world, and to have an impact in the lives of people for generations to come”.

You won’t get to the best place possible without purpose, mission/vision, goals/outcomes, and strategy.  Know – for sure – why you’re in business.  Be specific on how to get there.  Have clarity in it all.  Your business is a whole lot bigger than the people at the “top” or the name on your stationary.

Raising money; communicating with donors, employees, and customers; and marketing your brand are all things that require you to “raise your voice” to be able to relay your cause.  Whether a non-profit or for-profit, you’re in business for a reason.  This book will give you the designs that just may help you get your culture back in line and your reputation improved.