Sprint CEO Hints at Big Things to Come

by Matt Klassen on November 14, 2014

For years Sprint has been America’s perennial third place finisher in the wireless market, a nationwide competitor larger than the regional prepaid companies, but dwarfed by the likes of Verizon and AT&T. But over the past year that ironclad third place position has been in jeopardy, not only because fourth place T-Mobile has been aggressively pushing its UnCarrier promotions, but because the Sprint brand has virtually become synonymous with poor service and an inferior network.

In an attempt to right its listing ship this past summer Sprint brought in Marcelo Claure as the company’s new CEO, a move that was followed by promises of a new direction, better value, and better service. But admittedly we’ve seen relatively little from Sprint towards fulfilling these promises, the company opting for piecemeal discounts on various plans and incremental data increases at higher price points to try to attract data-hungry value-oriented customers.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not on the edge of my seat regarding Claure’s recent teaser, following up yet another lacklustre announcement of increased data caps and a marginal discount on phone access fees for family plans with hints that there’s much more to come. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Claure said at an investor conference Wednesday, adding that whatever the company has planned over the next several weeks has him “extremely excited.” Given that we really haven’t seen anything yet from the company the reality is that compared to Sprint’s lacklustre promotions thus far, watching paint dry would make a lot of people extremely excited.

Now there’s no question that Claure’s job of CEO is extremely difficult, attempting to pull a company out of its comfortable third place rut, trying to appease its new parent company, and trying to compete with competitors like T-Mobile who seem to not really care about profit margins…at least not in the short term.

To that end, Claure noted that he was shocked at the state of affairs when he took the helm back in the summer, as at the time Sprint’s market share for new customers sat at 10 percent, a disastrously low statistic. “(At that level) you’re not even part of the conversation,” Claure told investors Wednesday. “You’re not even relevant.”

But of course we all knew that Sprint was in terrible shape, that it was late to the 4G LTE party, that it had limited resources to develop a competitive network, that subscribers were abandoning the company like rats from a sinking ship, and that its customer service was virtually nonexistent. What we all want to know is what Claure is going to do about it, and given what we’ve seen so far, this piecemeal approach of discounts and data caps just isn’t going to cut it.

That said, the one thing Claure has done admirably is give Sprint a new identity, noting his vision is to make Sprint not only a “leader in pricing,” but also “the easiest brand to work with.” Building on T-Mobile’s ability to curry favour with consumers with its promotions (even at the price of being unsustainable), Claure wants to change the relationship dynamic between carrier and consumer, and his hints at bigger and better things to come will likely speak to this desire. The only real question I have is will Claure’s vision for this new Sprint go far enough, or will it be more disappointment for the soon-to-be fourth place finisher?

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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