I almost can't believe that this is happening or that I'm writing about it. I partially disagree with Seth Godin, a man I admire, respect and whom I consider a friend though I've never met him face to face.
Seth wrote about Sprint and their decision to fire customers who call customer service too often - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/07/treating-differ.html - His point is that some customers should be treated differently and asked the very provoking question "What would happen if you fired (nicely) the very few customers that take your best effort but rarely appreciate it or spread the word?"
The quesiton is a good one and the idea of firing those customers that take most of your effort and supply very little of your income is solid business advice because they don't bring that much to the business.
But here is where my disagrement is. When over 1000 customers call that often you are looking at a representative sample of people who are really pissed off, chances are high you are doing something very wrong. It is imperative at that point that you look at the cause of their extreme disatisfaction (calling 20 times a month) -continued-
and see where their lack of satisfaction stems from. I'm guessing if you looked at the reasons they were calling and the number of people who had the same concerns who did not call 20+ times a month that there would be a strong correlation between the issues the largest volume complainers had and those who did not. Polls to be considered statistically accurate need only around 1500 people to give us a clear picture of opinions of Americans, I'm betting that 1000 Sprint customers gives a very accurate depiction of the level of customer satisfaction across the board, in an industry that already has one of the higest levels of customer disatisfaction in any industry.
A better choice than firing customers would be to actually focus on correcting the problem. Having someone take personal responsibility for these 1000 people and actually serve them and fix their problem once and for all and convert them into raging fans who would go out an tell everyone how someone actually cared for them. But and this is a big but, that action would have needed to be taken before they had to call 20+ times a month!
Customer service is not really that hard, even at Sprint's level. Take a look at what is driving your customers mad and fix it, turn your ability to solve problems into a market defining benefit rather than a "we do it as well as anyone in the industry" thorn in their side.
Seth, I still love and admire you, but you may have got this one wrong.