Sprint expands 'Direct 2 You' smartphone setup program to Denver, LA, NYC and SF

Sprint (NYSE: S) expanded its "Direct 2 You" service, in which sales representatives meet customers at their homes, offices or other locations to set up their new smartphones, to four new major markets: Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. The carrier plans to keep rolling out the offering to new markets throughout 2015, including Dallas, Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C., in early July.

Sprint launched the service in April as a way to differentiate itself from its competitors. The program launched in the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area and then soon expanded to Chicago and Miami. The service involves specially trained Sprint retail employees roving around in cars to meet customers.

Originally available only to existing Sprint customers, Sprint said Direct 2 You is now available to everyone, including those who want to switch to Sprint. Sprint has said that it will eventually have up to 5,000 cars on the road to support the service and may hire up to 5,000 new employees, most of them full-time workers.

Under the service, customers who want to upgrade their phones can call Sprint to schedule an appointment for the free Direct 2 You service. Then, a Direct 2 You employee will arrive when and where the customer requests. The Sprint employee will set up and activate the customer's new phone, will transfer all contacts and data from the old phone, and then will personalize the new device to the customer's specifications. Sprint said that Direct 2 You employees will be particularly skilled in helping customers switch smartphone operating systems. Customers can choose to turn in their old phones for recycling or reuse.

CNET tagged along with a Sprint employee of the service and witnessed a customer delighted by having her phone set up for her in her apartment. Appointments took place at a variety of locations, including a child's soccer game and near the beach.

One issue is whether Sprint can muster the necessary resources for the program to expand nationally and in major markets across the country. "It's an amazing problem to have to ramp up for," Karen Paletta, the northeastern regional vice president for Sprint, told CNET. She said she hopes to expand the service as quickly as possible and will work to allocate resources where demand is higher.

She thinks Direct 2 You will prove popular in New York. "New Yorkers want to be on the cutting edge," Paletta said. "It will go viral, and I'm hoping very quickly."

The service does have a key drawback, in that some customers might live or work outside of areas where Direct 2 You will travel. Within participating markets, Sprint will have specific "delivery zones" and when customers set up an appointment, a Sprint specialist will determine if the desired meeting location is eligible for Direct 2 You.

With the new expansion, the service is now available in 28 cities within the new major markets. In the Los Angeles metro area the service covers Los Angeles, Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Laguna Beach, Long Beach, Newport Beach, West Hollywood, Pasadena, San Pedro and Santa Ana. In the New York metro area it covers New York City and Newark, Jersey City, Edison, Elizabeth and Paterson, N.J. In the San Francisco Bay Area the service covers San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley. And in the Denver metro area Direct 2 You includes Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Golden. The service remains up and running in Chicago, Miami and Kansas City.

The big question is whether Direct 2 You will help improve Sprint's brand perception and subscriber numbers. "It's an interesting experiment, but I just think it's probably too much of a departure from how people normally buy phones to really move the needle for Sprint competitively," Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson told CNET.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article

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