Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) employees are close to reaching a company goal of sending out 500,000 handwritten thank you notes to longtime Sprint customers. According to Sprint spokesman Tom Cook, the carrier's employees so far this year have churned out 401,869 handwritten thank you notes.
"We're way ahead of schedule," he said.
The program, dubbed internally as "Thank You Thursday," launched in 2010 as part of an effort within Sprint to improve customer retention. An employee in Sprint's marketing department, Erik Wullschleger, came up with the idea as a way to create a personal connection between Sprint customers and their wireless provider in an age of automatic, online bill payments. Participating employees typically get together on Thursdays to write the notes.
The carrier's employees sent a few thousand handwritten thank you notes in 2010, and increased that number to around 45,000 in 2011. The program caught the attention of Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, who, according to Cook, said that there's "there's no reason we can't blow this out" and set a goal of sending out 500,000 thank you notes this year.
"I know it's kind of old fashioned, but I think in today's digital world customers notice and appreciate that we take time to write letters to them," Hesse told Forbes.
Cook said Sprint employees in the carrier's Overland Park, Kan., headquarters generally get together on the third Thursday of every month to write at least five thank you notes. The carrier sends the notes (along with a 25 percent-off coupon for handset accessories) to Sprint customers who have been with the carrier for at least eight years.
"We'll keep going through the end of the year" even if Sprint hits its 500,000 goal, Cook said.
After its acquisition of Nextel, Sprint suffered through years of subscriber defections. However, the carrier in recent months has managed to reverse that trend. Sprint served 56.1 million total customers at the end of the first quarter, its highest level ever. Sprint added 1.1 million total net customer additions in the first quarter, its sixth consecutive quarter with more than 1 million net subscriber additions.
However, Sprint ranked No. 6 in a list of the companies with the worst customer service, according to a survey conducted by JZ Analytics and published by MSN Money.
Cox tailors the right service fit for its subscribers
Gartner: 10 mistakes leading to mobile customer service failures
DirecTV pursues 'perfect 90-day install,' in shift from subscriber acquisition to retention