Sprint – Sprint Corp – one of eleven company profiles – Telephony Marketing Report

Sprint – Sprint Corp – one of eleven company profiles – Telephony Marketing Report – Company Profile

Dan O’Shea

Sprints Local Telecommunications Division has come to realize over the last few years that the most important drivers in bringing products and services to market should be the needs and desires of the market itself, not the in-house excitement generated or the products or the development of technology.

The group, which operates in 19 states and in almost every region of the country under the moniker of United Telephone, also has come to believe that the best way to measure these needs and desires is to more actively seek out customer opinions.

The customer survey has become Sprint’s primary tool in the revision of its marketing philosophy, according to Tom Farmer, vice president of marketing and business development for the local division. Sprint has spent the last year asking customers how they feel about the quality of Sprint’s service, the technology available, and the speed and adequacy of response to customer inquiries and service problems, he notes.

The telco has learned that its former marketing approach did not focus enough on some distinct market segments such as residential customers and small businesses. “Part of the problem was that marketing people were spending all their time on the big business customers. Now there is a new approach. We have to move more into a consumer market focus,” Farmer says.

Though more equal distribution of marketing efforts is a recent movement, Sprint’s historic presence in so many parts of the country has given it much experience in marketing to a wide range of population densities, an array of socioeconomic stratas and business and consumer markets whose needs might vary from region to region.

Sprint overcomes the challenges of distributing to dispersed market segments with different needs by developing approaches specific to each niche.

“You have to build marketing plans specific to each area, and treat people differently in different parts of the country,” Farmer says.

The structure of Sprint’s marketing department and the manner in which its business offices operate accommodate this more customer-specific marketing philosophy. Sprint’s local business units, though they are not considered independent, each have their own marketing chiefs. Also, local sales and service offices recently began expanding their weekday business hours, opening earlier and staying open later. Some offices also keep Saturday morning hours.

This type of service support is important, but ultimately, customer satisfaction revolves around whether or not a telco can deploy services that will be most useful to customers. Sprint can, as evidenced by its delivery of frame relay service to Nebraska users and its deployment of primary rate ISDN offerings in Florida, two network advancements supported by national users groups–the Frame Relay Forum and the National ISDN Users Forum.

Speedy service deployment is something to brag about, not if it comes at the expense of quality, Farmer says. “We’ve made great strides in service deployment, but we’ll be unhappy with it as long as we’re in business. Our complexity as a big business may be both our weakness and our strength. It allows us to figure out the best way to do things and respond to customers, maybe not the fastest, but accurately,” he says.

Speed could become more of an issue, however, as Sprint and other LECs enter an era of more heated competition. “We have several high-growth areas, but competition comes quickly, and we’re aware of that fast pace,” Farmer says. The reshaping of industry regulations will help determine Sprint’s response to needs for faster service deployment times in the competitive future, he says, though Sprint’s cellular operations certainly will be an important weapon in its fight to dominate markets.

Sprint already has made many changes in response to customer surveys received over the last year, and because of its usefulness, has decided to make the customer survey a fairly frequent guage of its marketing efforts. Sprint plans to distribute customer surveys three times yearly beginning this year. Farmer says Sprint has realized that its marketing strategies once were guided predominantly by technology and then by internal product development support, rather than by the actual tastes of various market segments.

“We have to determine customer expectations before we know what work needs to be done. Before, there were too many internal measurements of how we were doing,” he says.

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