Not having contracts equalises our relationship with our customers – Interview with John Marick of Consumer Cellular

Today’s interview is with John Marick, the co-founder and CEO of Consumer Cellular, a fast-growing and awarding winning provider of cell (mobile) phones and services in the US. John joins me today to talk about his company, why they are growing so fast, what rules they are breaking and what they are doing differently.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: The art of selling has to change because the art of buying has changed – Interview with John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing – and is number one-hundred and three in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here are the highlights of my interview with John:

  • Consumer Cellular are ranked as the top-rated nationwide provider of cell (mobile) phones and services in the US by Consumer Reports and have retained that ranking for four years running.
  • They have around 1.5 million customers, 1,000 employees and are growing at around 30% per year.
  • Everything they do is focused on making their service consumer friendly.
  • They have looked at all of the things that customers traditionally don’t like about mobile/cell phone providers, have turned them around and now offer the opposite.
  • In particular, they don’t have contacts and allow their customers to scale up or down at any point without penalty or long-term commitment.
  • They also have an entirely U.S.-based customer support team.
  • Consumer Cellular focus on the mature market (50 years and above).
  • The choice of having an entirely U.S.-based customer support team resonates with this market for two reasons: 1. It creates jobs in the US and 2. The ease of communication (being greeted by a friendly voice in an accent that they recognise automatically creates rapport and trust given that they do not have a retail presence).
  • They know that the route to profitability is for their customers to stay with them for a long time. They believe they can achieve that by delivering great service to their customers and, thus, if they focus and deliver on that promise then their customers will stay. This removes the need for contracts.
  • In terms of customer churn, their strategy has them on par with the other big providers and significantly below the pre-pay providers. This, in their minds, refutes the need for contracts.
  • They also employ a proactive customer service strategy, their usage alerts, which alerts their customers when they are above or below their usage plan so that their customers can adjust their plan or usage and get the most value out of their plan.
  • In time, their competitors may follow and copy Consumer Cellular’s strategy.
  • But, it’s one thing to say that you are going to deliver a great customer experience and another to actually deliver it.
  • The biggest barriers to other firms following in their footsteps are the risk and fear factor that comes with moving away form a business model that is based on contracted and guaranteed revenues to one that is predicated on an ability to delivery great customer service and a great customer experience.
  • Not having contracts keeps Consumer Cellular focused on doing a great job for their customers day in and day out.
  • Also, for their customers, the removal of the contract equalises the relationship between them and Consumer Cellular.
  • Consumer Cellular don’t have any patents or special technology that gives them a competitive edge. Their edge comes from how their people deliver their promise and value proposition to their customers.

About John (taken from his Consumer Cellular bio)

John Marick Consumer CellularJohn Marick is the co-founder and CEO of Consumer Cellular, one of the longest operating and largest mobile virtual network operators of cellular phone service in the United States. In October 1995, Marick launched Consumer Cellular, a company built on the belief that everyone should have access to the safety and convenience of cellular service. At that time, Consumer Cellular had two employees in its Tigard, Ore. location and under John’s leadership has grown to more than 1,000 employees with offices in two states, Oregon and Arizona.

John began his career in marketing with McCaw Communications, which became the country’s first wireless service provider. While there, he noticed cellular operators were focused on providing cellular service to high-use business clients and early adopters, which left individuals with lower use needs struggling to find affordable cellular service. This is when Marick realized his vision for Consumer Cellular – a company that helps everyone obtain affordable cellular service that is easy to understand and use.

John leads Consumer Cellular’s dedication to giving back to the community and has spearheaded company blood drives, quarterly company-wide work sessions at the Oregon Food Bank, a cell phone recycling initiative that has generated more than $50,000 in donations to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and other programs benefiting The American Cancer Society, Oregon Food Bank, PRIDE and PHAME.

John Marick received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in management and marketing from the University of Portland and master’s degree in business administration from Willamette University. He was recognized as one of the 75 Significant Business Alumni from the University of Portland as part of the School of Business’ 75th year anniversary.

Check out Consumer Cellular’s website (www.consumercellular.com), connect with them on Twitter @Consumer_Cell.

Comments

  1. Adrian,

    I suspect that Consumer Cellular won’t find that in time, their competitors may follow and copy Consumer Cellular’s strategy.

    To do so their competitors will have to give up the short term profits that they hold so dearly.

    James

    • adrianswinscoe says:

      James,
      I suspect that you are right.

      What I found very powerful was that Consumer Cellular looked at all of the things that customers said they didn’t like about mobile phone companies and then offered them a service that addressed those issues. Who knew that giving customers what they wanted could be so successful!

      Adrian

  2. Adrian,

    It starts from here, doesn’t it: “They have looked at all of the things that customers traditionally don’t like about mobile/cell phone providers, have turned them around and now offer the opposite.”

    Meet your customers’ needs and don’t worry about what your competitors are doing. Do what you believe is the right thing to do, for your customers.

    Annette :-)

    • adrianswinscoe says:

      Too true, Annette.
      However, the challenge for many firms is that they don’t know or choose their customers but resort to chasing after the customers of other people.

      Adrian

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  2. […] of the relationships that businesses have with their customers was an idea that came up in a recent interview that I conducted with John Marick, the co-founder and CEO of Consumer Cellular, the awarding winning provider of cell (mobile) phones […]

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