Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Problem with the Pre Inventory

I LOVE technology. Anyone who knows me, knows that. I love to tinker, experiment, develop and test new devices, clinical techniques, etc. Over the years, one of the things I've loved to tinker with is cell phones.

I've been a Sprint customer ever since the early days of Sprint PCS. At first it was because my wife was an employee, but that was almost 10 years ago now. I continue to be a Sprint customer and supporter for a couple of reasons. 1. I feel a loyalty to a company headquartered in my home town. 2. I have several Sprint employees as patients and I want to support them as well. Bear in mind that I am the iPhone target market. I am a Mac lover and want a mobile phone that will do it all, but I've refused to leave Sprint for AT&T.

Everyone who is a tech or cell phone lover knows that Sprint has been losing customers the last few years for a variety of reasons. However in the past year or so they've made strides with their pricing and customer service to try and turn things around.

One of the the big things Sprint has been planning on is the release of the new Palm Pre. This device has been discussed as Sprint's answer to AT&T's iPhone. Sprint has marketed the living daylights out of it and the release date was wildly anticipated by many.

Last summer I purchased Sprint's earlier flagship phone the Samsung Instinct. I really love my Instinct, although I wish I could do more with it.

The day after the Palm Pre launch I ran into to people I know who had purchased one. They were both thrilled and proudly showed off their new tech wonder. Both people told me "someone like you has GOT to have one". Last week I was in Orlando speaking at the American Dental Cooperative meeting in Orlando. On my flight home, I was checking e-mail with the Instinct before we pushed back. I was spotted by a Sprint employee across the aisle who began to ask me what I did, how I liked the Instinct, etc. After about 2 minutes she told me that I was the target market for the Pre and that I should get one ASAP. I was also told this by a couple of patients.

So now I was bitten by the Pre bug. I decided to buy my second high end phone in less than a year. Last Thursday, a week after the Pre's debut, I called my local Sprint store and asked if any were in stock. I was told none were currently in, but they would put me on a waiting list and call me when the shipment arrived.

Monday afternoon I decided to call the store again. Maybe they had forgotten to add me to the list. I called and asked for the status on the Pre and was once again told when they had a phone for me I would be called. I told the girl on the phone that I had been put on the list last Thursday. How long does it take to get a shipment on their flagship product? "We're getting about 4 a day" I was told. Oh and they will gladly hold the phone for 24 hours when my name comes up. Longer than that and I will have to wait on the list again. My travel schedule may cost me my phone... if they call.

My questions for Sprint are these: This is how you treat one of your longest term customers? You have a phone you've been promoting for over 6 months and one week into delivery you can only come up with 4 per store in the city where you are headquartered? You are "adding people to the list" when they call wanting to spend their hard earned dollars in a sluggish economy?

I'm no business genius, but I know technology. Can anyone offer some insight as to why this is happening? Personally I'm stumped.

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