The number of dropped calls and the scope of customer disruption caused by Sprint’s “rip and replace” network upgrade surprised even the man who set it in motion, according to a published interview.
Dan Hesse, whose seven-year stint as chief executive of the Overland Park-based wireless company ended about a year ago, made the comments in a report from FierceWireless, an industry trade publication.
“We knew it would be difficult, but it was even more difficult than any of us had anticipated,” Hesse told FierceWireless. “Unfortunately, there was no playbook. No wireless company in the world had done something so radical and so aggressive in order to build a great network at the end.”
Hesse came into the post in December 2007 with the job of turning around the company. The network upgrade — called Network Vision — was rolled out about five years ago. For at least a year, Sprint’s network message to customers was a concise “Pardon our dust.”
“To be perfectly frank, the issues we face are more difficult than what I expected to find,” Hesse told The Kansas City Star less than three months into the job. “This is not a quick turnaround, and I didn’t claim it would be.”
There were huge layoffs, “a near death experience” that Sprint survived in 2008 and “casefuls of awards” for customer satisfaction during his watch.
Hesse’s exit came last August after Sprint owner SoftBank in Tokyo gave up on plans to seek a merger with T-Mobile US.
His successor, Marcelo Claure, embarked on his own turnaround effort that has largely stopped the loss of subscribers that stemmed in part from the network disruptions that Hesse talked about in the FierceWireless interview.
Claure, in a letter to Sprint employees, thanked Hesse for his service and specifically for the disruptive but needed Network Vision project.
The letter said Hesse’s “focus on innovation and his determination to upgrade our network have left us with a strong foundation for the future.”
Hesse, who remains in the Kansas City area, had told employees when he left a year ago that he would always be “a Sprinter” and cheer them on.