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Customer Experience Management (CEM)

Does US Cellular No Longer Believe in SPIT?

US Cellular is abandoning its Belief Project branding, along with several of the customer service perks that came along with it.

The regional operator confirmed to FierceWireless on Wednesday that it was discontinuing the moniker "The Belief Project," the Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT)-driven initiative it launched in 2010 to overhaul its customer service. (See: U.S. Cellular Believes in SPIT.)

Specifically, a spokeswoman tells Fierce that the changes include:

  • US Cellular customers will have to sign up for a new two-year contract if they purchase a subsidized device. The Belief Project initially did away with that requirement for customers after their original two-year contracts expired.
  • There will no longer be a 3 percent discount for signing up for automatic payments.
  • New customers can no longer opt to upgrade their phones every 10 to 11 months, although existing customers in the program can continue to do so.
  • In April, US Cellular discontinued its Battery Swap program that lets customers bring in an old battery for a new one.

So, what's left? The carrier says it's maintaining its customer reward program that offers perks like earlier phone upgrades, free accessories and ringtones, devices, memorabilia, and tickets to events. It will also continue to cap overages at $50 for single-line plans and $150 for family plans.

Why this matters
US Cellular made a big splash with Project Belief three years ago, advertising in all its major markets and highlighting how it sets it apart from its bigger rivals in the US. At the time it was announced, executives told Light Reading it was the biggest transformation in the operator's 27-year history, involving a number of customer-facing elements as well as behind-the-scenes SPIT tools like real-time service assurance probes, IP-based fault management, customer data inspection tools, and deep-packet inspection (DPI).

The operator hasn't yet outlined what SPIT tools it would still employ, but the changes are likely coming under the direction of new CEO Kenneth Meyers as he tries to make up for customer loss and heightened competition.

US Cellular just recently got the iPhone, much later than its competitors, lost its CEO Mary Dillon, who initiated Project Belief, and sold its spectrum in its two biggest markets, Chicago and St. Louis, to Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). It's down from 6.1 million customers to about 5 million, but it's using its extra cash from the sale to build out LTE in its remaining markets.

For more

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

@jopocop 9/5/2013 | 2:52:49 PM
USM To me the best commericals are the ones that motivate the viewer to watch the whole thing, rather than skip through it.  Something that motivates to buy soon, such as those ads that zoom into food, or fast racing cars, or must have services or items in daily life. Sometimes the odd ball commerical works, such as the weird GEICO ones, or Flo for Progressive Ins, or maybe an animation involving kids or animals.  In the case of USM, this is what they offered up recently:  

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxuHtQyhXI4

 

Average.  At least it has a kid/teen in it.  To me the problem with the commerical is that everybody knows there are free phones and low cost phones.  A better approach is the service, the price of service deal, packages, rates, all that lands the customer.  

Nevertheless, a real tough job to get people to switch or sign up on contracts.  
Sarah Thomas 9/4/2013 | 6:34:00 PM
Re: USM haha, I thought the same thing when I saw that Sprint commercial! Ick. What commercials are you referring to, in particular? I didn't watch the Bachelor, so I don't know...(jk, I did, but can't remember.) 

I think playing up its customer service has always been the angle for US Cellular and a selling point of it. Its customers seemed to really like it. Maybe it needs to switch to focus on being a value brand? That should appeal to younger users too.
@jopocop 9/4/2013 | 12:07:56 PM
USM That is a great slogan. Whatever they use for an ad campaign, it should not be the new Sprint commercial I saw on TV where they had a very intense zombie ask the Sprint sales people about the new Sprint life guarantee. That was gross.  

In my view, the best ad agencies are the ones running commericals on Bachelor and DWTS TV shows.  Just copy cat some of those ideas.  

They need to get out of the stick in the old granda mud syndrome and appeal to the younger set.  Consumers want deals, coupons, and perks and freebies.  I give them credit for using "RetaiMeNot", the new IPO company "SALE" So is ATT, S, VZ and TMo.

Seriously, teens and young adults are the big new smartphone buying group.  Every year the telcos can count on a 2-3 million new teens/young adults, needing phones for the first time.

in the final analysis, the market is very mature and so tough to sign up new customers.

 
Sarah Thomas 9/4/2013 | 11:28:39 AM
Re: USM @jopocop, I agree that some of the elements of it probably need updating, especially in the face of competitive moves towards ending device subsidies, doing away with contracts, shared data, etc. But what do you think would be a better name for the initiative? Project "I can't believe the deals!?!"
@jopocop 9/4/2013 | 11:24:35 AM
USM Seems to me that this regional telco is searching for some kind of new campaign to hold and attract customers in a marture market situation.  A three year old program may have run it course.  

 

Looking at the 5 year stock price chart, they are essentially sideways on the stock price since 2009.  

 

Mgt needs to sometimes go back to square one and figure what matters most to customers, namely, best basic phone fees, lowest in the area they serve.  

 

Lastly, it is well known that there has been mumblings around Wall St that they will need to merge too, sooner or later.  

 
Sarah Thomas 9/4/2013 | 10:55:32 AM
Re: Too bad I agree, KBode. And it just looks bad to get rid of the name, "Project Belief." Should we assume we can no longer believe in them -- or any wireless operators' claims, more like it?? Is this signaling more changes to come?
Sarah Thomas 9/4/2013 | 10:54:41 AM
SPIT I am going to follow up with US Cellular about what SPIT mechanisms they are still using. My guess is most of them, as they were valuable in customer management and billing. They just seem to have gotten rid of anything that cost them more money.
KBode 9/4/2013 | 10:53:59 AM
Too bad That's a shame that Kenneth Meyers thinks the best way to differentiate U.S. Cellular from AT&T and Verizon is to be more like them.
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