T-Mobile: From Decline to Disruptor

In 2012, T-Mobile was on the wane. It was losing customers at an alarming rate and had the dubious distinction of being America’s fastest-shrinking wireless company. The company has since transformed into a competitive powerhouse and market leader. How did this transformation come about? By finding and exploiting rival company weaknesses to take market share, investing to build product capabilities, and adopting an in-your-face approach that shook up the industry.

While most CEOs are diplomatic, T-Mobile CEO John Legere took a different path.

“Public attitudes have shifted about the rhetoric and candor we want and expect from leaders. Look at the 2016 presidential campaign, or at how people like Mark Cuban and Elon Musk communicate. The era when CEOs needed to have every statement cleared by the legal team is over—and good riddance. People want authenticity from leaders, not canned phrases full of legalese.”

Coupled with its tough approach to competitors is T-Mobile’s passion for addressing customer pain points as a primary focus of the business. Legere learned that the prevailing industry approach to providing mobile services was hated by customers. “It became clear that the best way to succeed in this industry was to do things as differently as possible from the existing carriers—to do the complete opposite. That was the start of the strategy we named Un-carrier.”

The Un-carrier identity became T-Mobile’s mantra to earn a deeper relationship with customers by providing great experiences. T-Mobile created a manifesto for company operations, driving its change from a sales-and-promotions organization to one known for great service and experience. T-Mobile’s disruption of the industry took the form of signature moves: getting rid of long-term contracts, removing global roaming fees, and enabling non-stop music streaming.

But before T-Mobile embarked on this remarkable renovation, they first made sure to listen—placing a high value on listening is a trait i4cp research found in companies that have successfully renovated their cultures.

Says Legere about his message to aspiring leaders: “It’s kind of fun at my age to go back and talk to business school people. I tell them, ‘I can summarize everything you need to know to lead a major corporation. Are you prepared to write this down?’ And then they get ready. I tell them how I succeed as a leader: Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, shut the f*** up, and do what they tell you.”

Lesson: Be bold on the new design… but don’t be hasty in discarding the past.

Read more about T-Mobile’s Transformative Steps and how HR played a crucial rule.

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