T-Mobile's Uncarrier 11: Gimmick or Genius?

What Brands Can Learn from the Telco About Digital Transformation

By Published on .

With its recent Uncarrier 11 announcement, T-Mobile outright changed the game for mobile. By moving beyond simply outmaneuvering competitors on pricing and contracts, and opting instead to double down on the fundamentals of a digital platform business model, the company continues to shake up its industry, while also setting the bar for every enterprise engaged in building a digital business.

Insurance providers, banks, healthcare companies -- take note.

Business is personal

Customer experience isn't just about how consumers buy your product or contact a call center -- it's a relationship centered around the customer's life experience.

Let's face it, no one actually wants to interact with their telco provider. Billing, contracts, device issues -- all necessary evils that come along with living in the modern world. T-Mobile gets it. Rather than only following the age-old telco strategy for improving customer experience (i.e. making customer service incrementally less terrible over long periods of time), it is taking a radically different approach.

With Uncarrier 11, T-Mobile is cementing its transition into a lifestyle brand. Taking a page from the digital business playbook, it is putting itself at the heart of its customers' life experiences.

If you're a T-Mobile user, you can now get dinner and a movie every Tuesday, on the house. Want to use your favorite messaging apps on airplanes? Go for it. Generous data plans mean you can consume all the music and video you want, and CEO John Legere is even sharing slow-cooking tips on Twitter every weekend.

Food, entertainment, connection to family and friends. All of this just for being associated with the brand -- no need to collect points or earn status -- you get real additional value just for being a customer.

Everyone becomes a partner

One of the hardest things for legacy companies to do is to put aside their old "channel and customer management" practices and learn how to create ecosystems where customers and partners voluntarily create value for the enterprise and each other.

This is where T-Mobile is really turning the corner. Giving customers stock -- even if it's just one symbolic share -- makes its customers partners in the business. By giving them additional shares for referrals, customers become affiliates, too. In both cases, customers now have a vested interest in T-Mobile's success and a reason to talk about the company with their friends and family, not to mention less incentive to switch to some other carrier.

While T-Mobile's aggressive pricing and free data schemes could be discounted as a race-to-the-bottom strategy, this new stock program signals to its customers that they can build something great together.

The same goes for its business partners. Having made investments in attracting a larger base of subscribers, T-Mobile can now focus on the other side of its platform business: attracting partners that want to provide products and services to their subscribers. Major League Baseball, Wendy's, Walmart (Vudu), Gilt, Lyft, and StubHub are among the partners T-Mobile mentions by name. What do all of these companies have in common? They are aggressively pursuing millennials -- the exact demographic that makes up T-Mobile's base.

Building these kinds of ecosystems might be ho-hum for digital natives and Silicon Valley startups, but it is downright revolutionary for telcos and other legacy businesses.

It's all powered by digital

Taking a page from Walgreens, which launched a ground-breaking app-based loyalty program late last year and continues to deliver new digital services through APIs, T-Mobile is enabling its new customer/partner enablement platform on its new T-Mobile Tuesdays app.

This means there are no more 800-numbers to call, no paperwork to fill out, no need to visit a T-Mobile store. With the new app, T-Mobile is meeting its customers right where they always are -- on their phones.

Beyond making great sense from a customer experience perspective, this move also allows T-Mobile to leverage data to provide more personalized offerings and create more value to customers and partners both -- exactly like any good digital platform company.

Call it all a gimmick if you like. But by digital transformation standards, T-Mobile is breaking new ground in a world where most old-line CEOs and boards are still struggling to figure out what digital business actually means.

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