Sprint is dying a slow death, losing subscribers month after month for years, and without some drastic changes the outlook isn't good. They were purchased officially last summer by Softbank Japan and everyone thought the infusion of new cash into the business would help them to make some changes. We haven't seen those changes and maybe there have been big changes to their network or behind closed doors, but we have not seen many of them and most importantly neither has the customer, as of yet. Just recently, a long overdue changing of the guard has taken place and out was Dan Hesse who had led his troops in to slaughter to the likes of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile over the past few years.
Incoming CEO Marcelo Claure promises change and he has his work cut out for him and so far he has made changes to the family plans although they weren't received well, criticized for not being enough. However, he did announce the new Sharp Aquos Crystal priced at $230 that was welcomed with open arms. It's going to take a lot more than that to win back customers though, so let's look at some possible ideas that could help turn this old, stale brand into a new and exciting cutting-edge mobile carrier.
1. The Brand
Sprint as we know it is dead or near death and it's time to kickstart this brand once again with either renaming the company or a complete overhaul of their branding. Perhaps with more exciting and edgy branding that only the top marketing companies in the world could bring to them. Something that will make people take notice and think of them as a cool brand once again and help them forget the Sprint of old.
We have heard that Sprint has been doing a lot of work to their network but it has not really had much effect as of yet on real world customers and we hear that it will be great in a few years. A few years too late. They need to use that money they were going to buy T-Mobile with and dump it into network upgrades and do it fast and right. Their network is falling behind everyone else's and this is where they need to catch up as it is great in some areas but elsewhere you are lucky to get signal.
This is not such as easy task but dumping their CDMA technology in favor of moving towards GSM based technology will bring big dividends. I'm not sure why they continued down this path but they keep dumping money into this and CDMA doesn't really have any advantages over GSM these days. Moving to a GSM network brings in possibilities of having customers switch over easily with their current handsets and also opens up the possibilities to bringing in new devices that don't have to be converted to CDMA. Most of the world is running GSM and it's time for Sprint to be part of that world. While easier said than done most would say, but it should be part of their long term plan.
4. Unlimited Data
In a data hungry world where people are becoming more and more reliant on smartphones and consuming more and more data every year, with carriers charging more for it, Sprint has a huge opportunity here to set themselves apart from everyone else. Stick with their Unlimited Data packages for everyone and market it hard as the only company that does not guage people for data and sell that like there is no tomorrow. The other carriers have brainwashed us that we don't need unlimited data as a way to increase our bills over the years as we keep consuming more data and end up paying higher prices .Sprint can change that and be the one carrier who is Unlimited and always will be, with no fine print or so called 'unlimited' plans like others carriers claim.
Cheap, cheap, cheap. The only way to win customers back is through their wallets and offer plans so cheap the other carriers can't compete. Make the plans simple, no fine print or hard to understand terms, just undercut everyone in the business and make your plans the cheapest by a long shot. Yes, this might not seem like a great business plan, but neither is losing customers and bringing them back is going to be costly and this is a sure fire way to bring them back and keep them.
6. Simplified Billing and Plans
As mentioned in my last part simple plans – ones which customers don't need a PHD to understand – and if they stick with their Unlimited Data this should be an easy thing to do. For example $49.99 Unlimited Text, Talk and Data; period. That would bring people back in droves especially with no crazy fine print to confuse them. Also, let's make sure there are no crazy bills with all these extras, be upfront with taxes and other charges so people know what they'll be paying at the end of the month. There's nothing worse than signing up for a $50.00 plan and it costing $83.00 a month by the time you get the bill.
7. Device Plans
Give people options like the early upgrade programs, BYOD and so on. However, don't charge customers up the ying-yang for the privilege. The Edge and Next plans really don't offer a whole lot of savings on some of them and can be confusing even for the savviest mobile phone users. Keeping subsidies will be important as there are still a lot of people out there who don't want to buy their phones with extra monthly costs. As well, make it affordable for those who want to buy phones off contract at reasonable prices not these inflated carrier prices we keep on seeing.
8. Cool Phones
Everyone wants the latest and the greatest phones, it seems like every month a new cool smartphone is coming out but every carrier gets the phone which is great for the consumer, but not good for Sprint trying to win over new customers. Sprint is owned by Softbank from Japan and they have connections to a lot of companies from Europe and Asia that have some really great cutting edge, cool smartphones that we never get to see in the US. Sprint needs to leverage that relationship like they did with the announcement of the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a very cool smartphone priced at $230 off contract and bring more of these phones to their network. There are some great companies out there that make some really great smartphones like Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Oppo, Sharp, Panasonic, Meizu, Acer, Lenovo, Xolo and even Sony who has little presence in the USA and many, many more manufacturers who could supply Sprint with some really great phones that would rival some of the top devices we see from the major OEMs here in the USA and for a lot cheaper.
The Framily is dead! Sprint's marketing team dropped the ball a long time ago and never picked it up since and it's no wonder Sprint can't get back into the game when they can't market themselves correctly. The brand has become confusing and old and tired. They need to work with some of the top marketing companies across the US to rebrand the company and their marketing strategies to come up with something nobody has seen before. They need to capture your attention in the way T-Mobile and Samsung have over the past few years and then take it to another level and make it cool again to be a part of Sprint's network and become the hip, new carrier. Not for just one ad campaign, but for all of their marketing through TV, print, online, in-store, promotions and the way the staff carry themselves. This is not about a change for one campaign, but rather a lifestyle change that Sprint need to change how people see the network.
10. Innovate and Listen
Sprint is like that Uncle from the 80's who is stuck there and we all have one, he does the same things; listens to the same tired music and wears the same tired clothes. It's time to modernize Sprint and become the innovators in the carrier business, rather than the followers and keep innovating and never settle or stagnate. Most importantly they need to listen to their customers and hear what they have to say, if they would have just listened to their customers 5 years ago they would not be where they are today and they failed to do that. In the age of the internet forum and reviews, there's no reason they shouldn't be listening to excellent feedback from their customers and address those issues.
I would love for Sprint to take all of these plans and run with them, but that is easier said then done and it's going to take some time. However for Sprint, time isn't on their side, and so they need to act fast before they become deeply entrenched and labeled as the last place carrier in the US. We need Sprint to innovate and keep the other carriers honest and prices competitive, something Sprint hasn't been doing for a long time. I am rooting for Sprint as they are clearly the underdog in the US carrier market. I have worked with many Sprint employees and their PR department who are some of the best in the business and they deserve better tools to make this company successful. I hope at the end of the day my bucket list for Sprint comes true and their new owner, Softbank, can return Sprint to its glory days and become one of the best carriers in the business once again.