Sprint (NYSE: S) wants to gain ground in the wireless race over rivals AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ), and T-Mobile (NYSE: TMUS) by taking a page out of the Domino's Pizza playbook.
Though the company isn't promising delivery in 30 minutes "or it's free," as the pizza chain did in the 1980s and early 1990s, it is bringing its phones directly to customers' homes and businesses. The third-place wireless carrier, which is likely to be passed by fourth-place T-Mobile (if it hasn't been already), wants to be the first phone company to offer delivery.
To make that happen -- and steal some headlines from T-Mobile and CEO John Legere, whose aggressive style has made him a media darling -- Sprint has introduced Direct 2 You. With new service, "retail-trained Sprint experts bring the in-store experience directly to the customer and set up the new device wherever and whenever the customer wants," the company said in a press release.
So it seems that while doctors don't make house calls anymore, Sprint will. It's a bold move, albeit one that seems expensive for the company (which is bearing the cost of the free service).
How it works
While a customer initiates pizza delivery orders, Sprint starts the Direct 2 You process by texting or emailing qualified customers when it's time for them to upgrade. After receiving the text or email, the customer then calls the number shown and schedules an appointment with a technician.
After that, "a Direct 2 You Expert arrives when and where the customer requests, sets up and activates the new phone, transferring all contacts and data from the old phone, then personalizes the new device to the customer's specifications," explained the company in the launch release.
"We take for granted that it is easy to switch between different types of phones, but it actually is very complex," CEO Marcelo Claure said. "By bringing the in-store experience directly to customers, we can make that change painless [and] worry-free and do it in the comfort of a location where the customer wants it."
Why is Sprint doing this?
The company said the motivation behind offering in-home and in-business service is customer demand. Sprint explained its logic in the release:
Time is the most precious asset for current and future Sprint customers who find it inconvenient to visit a store. Others have shared that they are reluctant to order online and receive a new device at home because it is challenging to start using it without help. It's not easy to transfer the contacts, pictures, videos, apps and other content from an old device to a new one. Setting up a new phone and learning how to use new features also can be difficult, and these functions are usually performed in a store.
By bringing these services to the home or business, Sprint will be removing a "pain point," according to Claure. The company will have approximately 5,000 cars on the road providing Direct 2 You services.
Will it work?
As a Sprint customer, I find this a welcome change from a company that had previously stopped providing phone support for new phone setup. That change forced customers to go to stores, where appointments are -- at least in my multiple experiences -- vague approximations. Bringing my new phone and a skilled technician to my home, assuming he or she shows up on time, is a refreshing facelift to the previous process.
It's hard to see how this won't work for Sprint. It makes it very easy for existing customers to upgrade, and that should enhance retention.
This seems like a very expensive way to do that, but at least it is a feisty move from Claure, and it shows that T-Mobile isn't the only company that can innovate.