What makes her powerful: Although she's been on the job less than six months, U.S. Cellular's new CEO Mary Dillon has already used her marketing savvy to bring some interesting changes to the Tier 2 carrier.
Dillon is new to the wireless industry, but she quickly gained the respect of many U.S. Cellular employees by visiting U.S. Cellular retail stores in Chicago, traveling to a call center in Knoxville, Tenn., and touring a cell site with a technician--all during her first week on the job.
A former McDonald's, PepsiCo and Quaker Food executive, Dillon understands the importance of customer loyalty. That's why in September U.S. Cellular became one of the first postpaid operators to offer customers rewards for their loyalty. Called The Belief Project, the program reduces overage charges, provides earlier phone upgrades, gives paperless billing discounts and offers free accessories to customers that are loyal to the operator. But perhaps the most significant part of The Belief Project is that U.S. Cellular is not requiring customers to sign an additional two-year contract after they fulfill their first one.
Although it's too soon to determine the results of U.S. Cellular's Belief Project (Dillon said at the end of the third quarter that the company has seen higher-than-expected migrations to the new plans), it's clear that Dillon's appointment was a refreshing change.
But Dillon has her work cut out for her at U.S. Cellular. In the third quarter, the company experienced a surge in data revenue from higher smartphone sales (it has added new Android phones, including the HTC Desire and Samsung Mesmerize) but it also lost more subscribers than it did in the year-ago quarter. The company lost 25,000 net retail subscribers, compared with a loss of 6,000 in the year-ago period, bringing its total subscriber base to 6.1 million.
For Dillon to succeed in this position, she will have to find a way to stop customers from leaving--customer loyalty is something U.S. operators have long struggled to attain. --Sue