Sometimes a good company just can't get any respect. U.S. Cellular does so many things to innovate better customer experiences, like a battery swap program, loyalty points, upgrade deals. Its advertising clearly communicates these differentiators. Yet to call it an also-ran is giving the brand more credit than it normally gets. I wonder how many consideration lists include it; my guess would be not that many. In a marketplace that is less about new user growth -- doesn't everybody who could own a mobile have one already? -- than it is about acquiring existing customers from competitors (or buying them outright, as AT&T just did with T-Mobile), U.S. Cellular is not in an enviable position.
It deserves better. So what would you suggest it do to generate more trial, purchase, and customer loyalty? Here are three starter ideas:
- Fix the advertising. There are few brands that have the operational substance to use traditional marketing channels as effectively as U. S. Cellular. Its better and different qualities shouldn't be announced or listed but rather creatively and passionately declared. Start a campaign to revive dead phones (just think of the imagery). Offer to translate competitors' invoices on two-year plans and then compare them to U. S. Cellular's better deal. Incentive people to switch. If any brand had a right to be in peoples' faces, it's this one. The current branding is just too bori...er...nice.
- Get more radical with operational innovation. OK, so you've come up with some neat programs. Go further. What about the fact that whatever new phone I buy will be outdated within the next six months? Why can't we lease our phones like we do cars? Where's the loyalty accrual over time so my trade-ins get better, perhaps so much so that I can reach a point that I'd never abandon my relationship with U.S. Cellular? Can the brand do more on providing live analog customer service in contrast to its competitors' increasing reliance on digital? Could there be more proactive ways to make sure customers never get unhappy in the first place? Think about doing more of what the competition either won't or can't consider.
- Become the anti-AT&T/T-Mobile. This gargantuan merger is going to take time and even if it's done so seamlessly (yeah, right), the rationale that it is intended to better serve customers is about as believable as the likelihood that it won't inconvenience them as it passes out the pink slips to merger staff. From call quality to invoicing it's a fair bet that there'll be some confusion, and it could be an opportunity for U.S. Cellular to position itself as the only secure, reliable alternative. I'm thinking combative, which may not be practical, but why not a real-time tally of most common complaints on Twitter and an offer for those sufferers to switch right there and then?
I don't know. I'm probably crazy. But this brand has potential. What do you think it should do?
(Image credit: U.S. Cellular)