How Sprint Won the Race for Customer Satisfaction
“What's in our Adobe stack? It's easier to tell you what we're not using right now.”
Chief Digital Officer, Sprint
There's a buzz about Sprint
At Sprint’s headquarters in Reston, Virginia, the telecom giant’s Chief Digital Officer, Rob Roy, works in a department he likes to call ‘The Hive’. “We’ve formulated this concept around the beehive,” he explains. “We bring everybody in, and we pollinate their minds with the idea of digital transformation.” The Hive is a collective of over 120 data scientists, product managers, digital marketers, UX designers, and A/B testers. They cook up the latest creative technology solutions to meet the demands of Sprint customers. Roy’s team are all digital natives, or as he likes to say, “folks born swiping right.”
Sprint is currently locked in a war with Verizon and AT&T, in which customer experience has become paramount. Fifteen months ago, Roy and The Hive started a mission to teach the rest of the organization how to embrace all things digital, and win the race for customer satisfaction.
“My predecessors had all tried. To them, digital transformation was about cutting costs. They said: ‘If it costs you $5 to do something in-person, we could do it for a penny online. So let’s drive everybody over to the penny,’” says Roy. “But digital transformation is ultimately not about dollars and cents. That may be a result, but what you’re really asking us to do is to transform the way we do business.” For Roy, that would mean “a reverse cultural takeover of Sprint”—and a powerful suite of tools.
“I knew that we needed to get the right stack in place, the right foundation to build upon. The Adobe stack that we had when I came in had to be completely re-architected,” says Roy. With the help of Adobe Customer Solutions, Sprint made Adobe Experience Manager the backbone of their digital operation. They connected Adobe Target, Adobe Analytics, and Adobe Campaign. “I think we’re full on,” he says of the current stack. “It’s a Ferrari, and we’re driving it like a Ferrari. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t be talking to you guys.”
Jeff Henshaw, Vice President, Digital at Sprint, explains the challenge. “There’s the four big carriers, and we’re all very similar, right? So it’s extremely competitive. Because of this, we had to take our digital capabilities to the next level. We needed to digitize a seamless cross-channel experience for our customers. If your web presence is cumbersome and frustrating, you’re often ending a relationship before it even gets started. On the flip side, if you delight customers with clear, intuitive, appealing experiences, the relationship can flourish.”
Know thy customer
The answer was personalization. Sprint’s customers have to make complicated decisions in choosing devices, plans, services, and accessories. Do they love Android or are they a die-hard Apple fan? The ability to win or retain a customer is decided in milliseconds. Wendy Wen, Digital Optimization lead shares the breadth of Sprint’s personalization capabilities. “We can do a lot of things to personalize the experience through care, through acquisition, through how we serve customers in different life cycles, how we prevent customers from leaving us—there are so many opportunities. We can even focus on how to do cross channel and cross device personalization.” "But, the ultimate goal is to be predictive and create a one-to-moment personalized experience,” explains Roy. “That means to predictively recognize what that customer’s need-state is at that very moment, and surface the right experience for them.” It’s like walking into a coffee shop where the barista already has your order ready—including the almond milk.
“The cornerstone is analytics,” says Henshaw. “We’ve got a lot of people who cut their teeth in the web analytics field, so they view contextual marketing through that lens. Adobe Analytics is huge for us, as it enables us to do a multitude of things, from gleaning insights from behavioral data across our various web experiences, to utilizing intent data to activate personalized experiences.”
At first, Sprint used Adobe Analytics to identify the highest-value, highest-traffic pages for optimization. They used Adobe Target to capture anonymous behavioral data, and then started tinkering and testing to improve performance. An early Adobe Target win involved Sprint’s equipment protection program. By applying different creative, layout, and messaging, Sprint boosted program sales by 29%. They also improved sales conversion for Sprint Easy Pay, the brand’s installment billing service.
"We've really gone all-in on Adobe, and it's helped us in a multitude of areas to operate, optimize, and personalize the website. So it's a great partnership.
Jeff Henshaw Vice President, Digital Marketing at Sprint
Soon, Sprint started to build a 360-degree view of their customers. A longtime Sprint customer, for example, now receives a distinctly different experience from a first-time prospect. And because relevant content is served in real-time, it lowers the number of steps people need to accomplish their task, whether it’s changing their phone plan or upgrading to the latest iPhone. Roy calls these superfluous steps ‘irritants’. “I listen to phone calls,” he says. “I read verbatims [transcripts of customer support calls] every day. We look at user sessions to see where people get stuck. I ask: ‘what are we doing today to remove an irritant?’”
Also on the hunt for blockages in the customer journey is Allison Kearney, manager of Sprint’s Digital Analytics and Insights team. “We’re constantly looking at our sales funnel for the biggest drop-off points. We feed that information back to either the sales team or the product team and say: ‘Hey, we had a larger than normal drop-off at this step in our sales funnel. We need to look for a technical problem or maybe there’s something we can just do better.’”
“Data is at the heart of everything,” says Henshaw. “We utilize data sourced from Adobe Analytics to inform our product roadmap, to merchandise offers, and to define our UX strategy. We’ve really leaned in to the Adobe stack, and it’s helped us in a multitude of areas to operate, optimize, and personalize the website. So it’s a great partnership.”
Sprint uses these Adobe products:
Adobe Experience Manager
Combine digital asset management with the power of an enterprise-ready CMS.
Analyze online and offline behavior to get a full picture of the customer journey.
Test and optimize with machine learning across mobile apps and the web.
Speed is key
At The Hive, Adobe Creative Cloud is in constant use. “Removing boundaries helps to speed up the creative process,” says Aditi Kulkarni, Digital UX Manager at Sprint. “We’re using Illustrator, Photoshop, and XD. We’re using XD so people can collaborate, including copywriters, designers… everyone is streamlined. And from a customer experience standpoint, you get that consistent experience.” On mobile, everything is within a thumb’s reach, and on desktop, it’s easy to compare Sprint’s Unlimited Plus and Premium plans.
“Navigation is one of the most important things when it comes to customer experience. It’s findability—making it so that something is there when you need it, but not obtrusive,” says Kulkarni. “The Adobe suite enabled us to increase the conversion rates for a user who starts on the website and completes an order, by 0.17%, which is huge for us.”
Not all customer journeys are so simple. Sprint customers might shop for the latest deals on their mobile device, go into the store to demo the latest technology, then use their laptop to purchase online. They might even select the pick-up-in-store option. The data works both ways. “For example, we use the Adobe data lake to determine at a store level how many of the store’s customers have used the Sprint app within two days of visiting the store,” says Kearney. “Now we can say: ‘Hey, store number 123, your app adoption is a little low. Can you work with your retail agents and sales folks to highlight the benefits of the app?”
“Our retail environment is becoming increasingly digitized,” says Will Fraley, Director of Digital MarTech & Analytics at Sprint. “We offer mobile sales tools in-store, service tools for sales reps, and self-service kiosks. It’s not a case of the customer having to walk up to a register anymore.” Naturally, these new services—a mix of iOS, Android, and web-view technologies—all capture valuable data. “It’s something that we’re passionate about,” adds Fraley. “We have to be relentless in terms of our pursuit of understanding the customer.”
All hands on deck
There is no greater test for Sprint’s customer experience than during Apple’s product releases. “The Apple releases are certainly our Superbowl,” says Henshaw. “It’s a very big event for us. It’s one of those all-hands-on-deck periods for digital and the entire company. We race to deliver our content as quickly as possible, hot on the heels of the Apple announcement.” And so do Sprint’s rivals.
Inside The Hive, the team invented a way for their customers to reserve their new phone as soon as Tim Cook walks off the stage.
“We delivered an app called Priority Status,” says Henshaw, “which basically enables consumers to get in line, so to speak, and reserve a phone so they can beat the rush, sleep in, and not have to come back during the crazy pre-order period, or sit in line for hours in the middle of the night.”
“It took this team less than six weeks to invent and build that before the launch of the iPhone last year,” says Roy. “And it blew away our expectations. We had over 60,000 people sign up. When we built a phase two this year, we had over 150,000 people sign up. That’s probably one of my proudest moments. I said, ‘Oh, we’ve got something. We’ve got a really interesting team that can build things that will disrupt telecommunications. So that was fun.”
The moment Apple announces their latest iPhone, the Sprint team must react fast to allow their customers to make pre-orders.
The creative team uses Adobe Creative Cloud to quickly spin up landing pages for the new product.
On the Sprint ‘Priority Status’ app, customers can beat the rush and register for their new phone first.
The future is AI
Much attention is spent on Artificial Intelligence, says Roy. “We bring our top customer care reps to The Hive to learn from them. We built an AI bot that will allow our customers to self-serve, if you will, without the need of a human. We’re close to industry leading in that about 30% of our chats are taken through our AI system. We’re fairly proud of that one as well.”
Brand-wide, the new Sprint digital experience has delivered stunning numbers. “There was a 22% increase in order conversion rate,” says Kulkarni. There was also an increase of 14% in the conversion rate of brand new customers, a 16% increase in add-to-cart conversion, and a 4% increase in time spent on site. “So, regarding customer experience, people actually want to be here, they want to explore more, and do more, because it’s easier. A more compelling site has led to a decrease of 12% in the bounce rate,” Kulkarni added.
The results have impressed everyone at Sprint. In a recent campaign launched on mobile for first-time users, personalization techniques used to recommend devices resulted in a 20% lift in new orders.
For Rob Roy and The Hive, Sprint is now at the cutting edge of the digital revolution. “Adobe has enabled us to become channel-less,” says Roy. “And no matter what touchpoint you have with us, whether it’s phone, store, web, app, affiliate channel, it doesn’t matter, we can use these universal components to surface the right experience for them. That’s the vision of how we’re delivering on today’s kind of implementation.”
And as for the future, the team has an unusual new target: to have more fun. “That’s my goal every day,” says Roy. “My biggest thing for me is to walk into the office and see everybody else having fun. I enjoy them having a good time and doing fun, innovative things that no one’s done before.” The joy is rubbing off on Sprint’s customers. The company has recorded a 90% increase in online customer satisfaction.