Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Can Sprint Really Compete?

Sprint logo. can spring compete by david milberg

It’s a question many mobile industry watchers wonder. Even as the brand continues a full court press toward going head to head with industry leader, Verizon, people want to know, can Sprint really compete?

In 2014, when Marcelo Claure was appointed CEO, Sprint was in dire trouble. Not only did they have the slowest 4G network, the company had just been rated the “worst carrier in the country.” Not an auspicious start, but hey, there’s something to be said for “only way to go is up.”

Claure embraced his role as savior of Sprint, vowing to cut costs and make Sprint more aggressive in the marketplace. Now, two years later, people are beginning to see the fruits of those labors.

Pretty much nothing but bad to worse. Thousands lost their jobs, huge amounts of money were poured into network improvements, and customers were all but bribed to switch. But so far, nothing worked.

So, back to the original question: can Sprint really compete? Some insiders are saying the issue is not really one of capability but of identity. Consumers don’t really see Sprint as “being” anything…other than bad.

On-site focus groups have described Sprint as “outdated and outmoded” or “just plain bad”. Nobody seems to admit knowing anyone who has Sprint, much less anyone who actively chose Sprint over any competitors. If they can’t get AT&T or Verizon, they choose T-Mobile. That’s the reality Claure faces. Nobody really wants Sprint, because, despite their recent efforts, those changes have not translated into perceived differences. People don’t believe Sprint has done anything, so their updates and upgrades may as well not exist.

The failure needs to be placed squarely on communication. Nobody knows – or cares – that Sprint is moving forward because they don’t know. What they see they don’t remember, and what they encounter doesn’t connect. If Sprint can’t get their message to stick, is it any wonder no one can really hear them now?

David Milberg is a New York City based expert.

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