Saturday's NYTimes ran an article "Sprint’s Customer Erosion Prompts Cutbacks," which detail the telco's 25% decline in its stock price and its decision to lay off 4,000 workers and close stores in order to trim costs as its customer base shrinks. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/19/technology/19sprint.html?scp=2&sq=sprint
Sprint like all telcos sucks. Telco advertising has for years trumpeted sound quality and reliability and fabulous offers. All three of those factors are over-blown and deceptive. And so, the inevitable happens. People have a problem and decide to complain. If they complain at the retail level they are met by surly stupidity and the inability of low-wage workers to handle problems. If they decide to complain over the phone, like Sonny Bono, they collide with a phone tree and then are met by surly stupidity and the inability of low-wage workers to handle problems.
There's one strategy to combat customer defection. It's not promising connections at the speed of light, or a dork saying, can you hear me now, or more bars in more places or having your fave five. No, the way to retain customers is to treat them well. Period.
If a telco adopts the Nortstrom way, it will prosper. If not, they will need tactics like extortionate fines to keep customers in place.
By the way, you might want to read this from Wired. An article that features the un-funny comedian Sarah Silverman. It's called "Why Things Suck." http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/16-02/su_silverman