Apple vs. Sprint: A Tale of Two Stores

Yesterday I was in both the Apple and Sprint stores in the SF Bay Area, where I live. What a contrast.

The Apple store was jam packed with people fondling the various devices and computers. Roving customer service reps where checking out people standing in line with handheld “mobile registers” to minimize wait times. In general the mood was friendly and upbeat.

Just a few blocks away was the Sprint store where I had to return, for the second time, after technicians failed to fix both my phones (despite saying they had). There were only a few customers in the store, outnumbered by sales people. Yet there was still a wait to be helped. Many of the reps were talking to each other or playing with their personal phones. Customer service there was generally dull, defensive or indifferent.

I’ve been in this Sprint store previously and witnessed customers having rage episodes in front of the reps. It’s not pretty but I can see why it happens: poorly trained reps frequently provide incomplete or inaccurate information creating false or unfulfilled expectations.

What Sprint at a corporate level doesn’t seem to get is that there’s a connection between service and churn. The Sprint shopping experience is also totally sub-optimized. The stores could be a much more lively and interesting place and could help Sprint attract and retain customers, rather than being a dreary place that people are compelled to go to get work done on their phones.

For example I asked about the new Palm Centro, which Sprint has an exclusive on for a scant 90 days: “When are you guys going to get the Centro?” The response I got from a numb and almost totally indifferent salesperson was, “I don’t know.” Not, “We haven’t received them yet, but I can put you on a list and notify you when we do have them” or “I’m not certain but I’ll check for you.” I’m a lead that they don’t recognize, nor is there any incentive to do so.

This is the kind of complacency that’s occurs when the corporate types are essentially asleep at the wheel and/or companies are insulated from competition. That’s not entirely true in the U.S. but there are obvious barriers to switching that protect carriers to a degree here.

The Apple Store has been a huge part of the company’s recent success; the ability to go in and play with the products only makes people want them more. The ability to check your email and get on the Internet there too is another reason some people go into the store. (I checked into my flight for SMX Local & Mobile in the Apple Store.)

Sprint could have a similar competitive advantage if it really took customer service seriously and revamped its stores to make them more interesting and engaging places. But alas, while some get it, others obviously don’t.

4 Responses to “Apple vs. Sprint: A Tale of Two Stores”

  1. alfred Says:

    I had similar experience as you. I suspect people working at Apple are proud and feel previlaged to be working for Apple while the Sprint people are there to look for a better job.

  2. The Debate Over User Reviews « Screenwerk Says:

    […] those lines, I have to commend the manager of the Sprint store I critiqued in my post last week. He and I have been corresponding by email and he’s certainly trying to address my […]

  3. applestore Says:

    those lines, I have to commend the manager of the Sprint. i dont know…

  4. sprint store Says:

    […] store where I had to return, for the second time, after technicians failed to fix both my phones … Music StoreWirelessly download digital tracks instantly to your phone. … Go to sprint Music […]

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