Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Loyalty Is As Loyalty Does--or does not

I never thought I'd see the day. Three months into the switch, this used-to-be-dedicated-to-Verizon gal is now a happy Sprint believer. I'd been with Verizon since 1995, back when they were Ameritech. Happy with customer service and connectivity, I was one of those Verizon evangelists, singing their praises to hapless "other brand" no-bar folks around me as I blabbedy-blabbed away, cell phone to ear.

I know.  I KNOW.  Sprint takes a bad wrap when it comes to customer service.  Consumer Reports recently (and again) gave them the dreaded solid black circle for "issue resolved."  I did not make this move lightly or without trepidation, and in fact fought against it.  I worked with Verizon for nearly a year to fix an ongoing issue at the main off-site location where I hide to write.  I called and begged Verizon not to force me to leave them.  Seriously.  Called - and - begged.  "Just fix my issue.  That's all it will take.  PLEASE!  You've always been so good!"

From what I'd been told, when Verizon signed the deal to take over many of the Alltel areas, they stopped using Sprint towers--at least in the area where I was on Roaming services.  That's when things went bad.  Real bad.  Incoming calls no longer triggered the ring.  Dropped calls became the usual.  I had no bars.  My Blackberry Storm flipped between types of service.  I'd find out an hour after someone called me that I had a message.  I spent more time redialing disconnects than talking.  And on and on the headaches went.

I can't even guess how many times I called Verizon customer service--oftentimes ending up disconnected.  Because they're good, they called me back.  They were sympathetic.  Stick with us, they said.  Things will change when we're done with the transition in that particular area.  So I stuck, and I stuck.  They kindly gave me minutes for all my dropped calls, which I used making more dropped calls. 

But when the Alltel to Verizon transition was finally complete, the service was no better.  Months later, it still wasn't.  I asked point blank if there was anything (please, oh please!) on the horizon that could eventually make my situation better.  The answer was, "Honestly, no."  They continued to repeat that I was in a "fringe area."  Funny, I said for the forty billioneth time, that I didn't have this same "fringe" problem when you used Sprint towers to roam.

Then one day I heard myself say that last sentence.  Doink!

I chatted with a couple happy Sprint neighbors.  They claimed they even talked "all the way up the hill" without dropping a call, something never possible for me.  "Hey, Verizon," I said during my next call, "Sprint seems to be kicking your connectivity butt in this area."  Verizon suggested I buy a $200 signal booster.  "Do I just plug it in?" I asked.  No.  But all I'd need was a broadband connection to make it work.


A few months previous to their suggestion, in order to end my hate affair with dial-up (the only thing available),  I'd purchased a Sprint broadband card, which, remarkably, worked without fail.  How crazy would it be to pay Verizon $200 for a signal booster, which I would have to use through my Sprint broadband service?

Time to rethink your brand loyalty, Charlene.  What have I got here?  Neighbors who stay connected on Sprint, Verizon that used to work when roaming on Sprint towers, and a Sprint broadband card that doesn't fail.  I said to my husband, who was tired of hearing me yell about dropped calls, "My brand loyalty is not serving us well." 

I visited a corporate Sprint store near my writing location and spoke with a representative.  I laid my cards on the table.  "I don't want to leave Verizon."  He smiled, said I had thirty days to give the Sprint service a try.  What the heck.  I went with an HTC Hero phone (love, love, LOVE it!), used a temporary number for those 30 days and kept my Verizon service--just in case.  Within two days, I was hooked.

I admit I had concerns that Sprint wouldn't work as well when I returned to my home base area of Chicagoland.  But I needn't have worried.  They rocked it as well as Verizon.  I got hubby a new phone (not as fancy as mine, but free after rebate and he can still make use of the GPS navigation etc.) and we ported our numbers. So far, I have absolutely no complaints.  In fact, I raved about their service so much that a friend up north made the switch too and is as happy as I am.  He also went with the HTC Hero. 

In terms of pricing, I believe Sprint is the better deal.  Hubby and I get a lot of bang for our buck. We are on the Everything Data Family - with Any Mobile, Anytime(SM) plan, 1500 minutes.  GPS navigation, unlimited messaging,  free calls to any cell phone using any service, Sprint TV and radio, free nights and weekends with better hours than Verizon ...  All this for $129.00 a month.  I love my phone.  Connections are great.  The Wi-Fi works swell.  I never thought I could love something more than my Blackberry, but I am now an Android believer.  And apps ... Oh, the APPS!  During the Olympics, I even downloaded a cowbell app.  I could shake my phone and ring a cowbell with the best of them.  (See, you're not the only ones who can do all this stuff, iPhone folks!)   I can flip a coin, level a two-by-four, read a book and play Poke-a-Mole! 

But the bottom line is that Sprint is doing for me what Verizon could not:  they are keeping me connected in an area where I spend a good deal of time.  Does this mean I'm mad at Verizon?  Absolutely not.  Who knows, maybe one day I'll want to go back.  But for now I'm a happy little traveler with a question for you:  is your brand loyalty serving you well? 


Paul said...

Welcome to Sprint, I've been a customer with them since they brought PCS to the United States. I just called to confirm, 11/1997 was my first line, now there are four phones for the three of us (one business line) - almost 13 years with one company! NO problems unresolved, quick resolutions, nationwide use including FL keys and Hawaii with no issues - so I don't know what the others are having trouble with.

- Paul Gormley

Kathryn Magendie said...

I used to be a Verizon Girl - but I switched to the then Cingular (which became AT&T) and have been happy happy ever since!

I can't remember what prompted me to leave Verizon, but I wasn't happy with something.


Anonymous said...

Well, all I can say is that I've been a Verizon customer for quite some time, and have had no issues with connectivity. I travel for a living, often ending up in out of the way places, but have had no problems. Recently, my company decided to no longer reimburse me for my personal cell phone, and they have provided me with another phone, with Sprint service. With my Sprint phone, I am constantly dropping calls, and have no bars when I have 2 or 3 bars on my Verizon phone. Sorry, I'm not enthralled with Sprint. I am glad I still have my Verizon phone!

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Dear Paul and Kathryn, thank you for affirming the message that life can go happily with other carriers.

Anonymous, I hear what you're saying and am glad for your comparison. I used to be a traveling Verizon customer just like you (I HAD BARS when NOBODY else did!) If it weren't for the inability of Verizon to handle one particular location, where I spend a lot of time and depend upon my cell phone, I'd still be a happy Verizon customer. I'm waiting to hit a situation where Sprint can't cut it, but so far, it hasn't happened.

I wonder if different equipment makes a difference in some areas, too. Hard to say.

I am happy for you that you kept your Verizon backup. I know what if feels like to constantly deal with dropped calls: BAD!