Un-carrier is from the Inside out!

By John LegereSeptember 27, 2017

Yesterday, my team surprised me to celebrate my five-year anniversary at T-Mobile – complete with a fantastic new dance called “The Legere.” How many CEOs out there get their OWN dance, not to mention all the best wishes my team gave me! It was completely unexpected… but it also got me thinking! I mean really, what an AMAZING five years it has been! This kind of enthusiasm and creativity from the people I get to call my colleagues – reminds me why I joined this amazing place to begin with.

T-Mobile has come a long way, and it’s all because of the people! You know, when I first came to T-Mobile, the company didn’t have much to celebrate. The AT&T merger had just collapsed, we were losing customers right and left, we had no iPhone, no LTE and we were ranked number 4 (out of 4) in customer service and market share. But, instead of finding a company beaten down and discouraged, I found a team passionate about their customers and committed to their values. I found a team who had somehow withstood everything the past few years had thrown at them. And I knew then and there I wanted to be part of that.

For me, that’s what the last five years have really been about – igniting the revolution inside this place. A lot has been written about T-Mobile’s Un-carrier movement – and about how the strategy turned this company around and changed the wireless industry for good. But there’s another side to that story that’s never been told — about a company and culture unleashed. It’s the story of embracing that Un-carrier philosophy internally and freeing 50,000+ employees to become the driving force behind the Un-carrier movement and its success. These people built this revolution and drove an industry to do better for its customers… and we are far from done!

This team and I have had a lot of success over the past five years, but it didn’t come easily – and we have all learned a lot! I get asked all the time for key lessons from my time at T-Mobile, so let me share a few:

Lesson #1: Shut Up and Listen

Ok, I say this all the time – but I can’t say it enough. The most powerful formula for success is three simple steps:

  1. Shut up and listen to your customers and employees.
  2. Do what they tell you.
  3. Repeat.

This is not a secret. Tons of research and experts back it up, and other top brands and leaders get it. But, too many companies think listening to employees is about surveys or BS “listening tours.” It’s not. Listening must be part of your culture… at all levels. And, it’s got to be direct — not filtered through hierarchy or other media. And, it’s got to be something you’re willing to follow through on. In short, to listen without taking action is nothing. To listen and take action is everything.

At T-Mobile, we’ve cut through the layers — and hierarchy — to listen to employees directly every single day. Anyone can email me or my senior leadership team anytime, and we spend hours each day on social media with customers and employees. In my five years here, I’ve personally flown over a million miles to visit our call centers and retail stores — because it’s so important to cut out all the layers and hear directly from employees. Plus, I’d rather be talking to people directly than reading surveys in a stuffy dark conference room.

And, the ROI is indisputable. Our team and our customers are the main source of our Un-carrier ideas, and those ideas are at the core of our competitive advantage.

Lesson #2: Stand for Something

The past five years have really shown me the difference between a company and a cause. It’s the difference between business as usual and an all-out, no-holds-barred, industry-changing revolution.

T-Mobile’s cause — changing wireless for good – was an easy call from the start. Because this industry has been treating its customers so badly for so long. This Un-carrier mission unites our team in changing one of the most impactful industries and the most important technology of our lifetime.

To give that cause voice, we wrote the Un-carrier manifesto and gave it to employees. The manifesto is both a rallying cry and a clear statement of who we are and what we stand for. And, with every Un-carrier move we make, we deliver on it. And we make a point of talking with customers and employees about how it moves our cause forward and how it changes wireless for good.

People want their work to mean something more than a paycheck or ‘shareholder value.’ It’s our job as leaders to help our teams connect their work to the good it brings to the world. And, for me, in the end, the cause makes the company.

Lesson #3: Get the F#$@&% Out of The Way

T-Mobile employees want to do awesome work. Everybody does. What stops people from doing awesome work are BS corporate policies, outdated management structures and a lack of imagination.

One of the first and best things we did at T-Mobile was to get out of our employees’ way. In fact, most of the ideas for Un-carrier were already being hatched inside the walls of T-Mobile. The teams knew the “me too” strategy wasn’t working. That customers hated contracts and BS fees. They just needed someone to give them the okay and then get out of the way so they could execute. The rest is history.

In customer care, we had BS metrics that incentivized employees to stop customers who wanted to switch away from T-Mobile. That created a bad experience for customers and for employees who tried to avoid those calls. We got rid of that and set goals around customer happiness. A few months later, we jumped from #4 to #1 in customer care satisfaction. Now, a few years later, we rank the highest on customer satisfaction. Just by getting out of the way.

Lesson #4: Share the Success

A job has got to be about more than a paycheck. It’s got to be about feeling valued and doing great work. Tons of research backs this up. When employees can reap the rewards, and participate in the success of an organization – everyone wins. Most companies offer full benefits only to management or full-time employees, overlooking hourly and part-time workers. That’s total Bullsh*t!

From health plans to stock grants, every benefit we offer is available to employees across the ENTIRE company. Frontline retail and customer care workers, whether part-time or full-time, get the same access to the same great benefits as our senior management. Our part-timers have the same medical, vision and dental options that I do — and they’re pretty freaking good. The same is true for employee recognition at T-Mobile. Traditionally at most companies, the best awards are reserved for sales employees. But we don’t work that way. Our amazing Winners Circle and PEAK events recognize top performers from across the entire company.

We’re also one of the few companies in America to give EVERY employee stock. And among retailers, we’re in a very small group. The result is that our people work like they own this company. Because they do. And that’s how they engage with customers. I see it in stores and hear that on calls every day. And it is a beautiful sight to see.

Lesson #5: Enjoy!

Do these first four things and stand back. Because you will be amazed! A company and culture unleashed in this way is a company and culture capable of incredible things. Want proof? Here’s just a sampling of what the team at T-Mobile has accomplished over just the past five years.

  • More than doubled our customer base – from 33 million to nearly 70 million
  • Deployed a nationwide 4G LTE network – from 0 people covered in 2012 to 315 million people covered today
  • Completed nearly 800 billion customer calls and delivered 2 trillion text messages 
  • Our customers downloaded nearly 9 exabytes of data – so they can snap, tweet and keep up on the latest Netflix
  • More than 600 million calls received from our care organization as they reclaimed our reputation as the best in the business
  • We’ve more than doubled our branded distribution and we’ll have 17,000 branded retail locations by the end of 2017
  • Our employees and foundation have given over $4M to charitable causes they care about and volunteered more than 50,000 hours of time
  • Forced the industry to get rid of 2-year service contracts – now 170 million customers are free
  • Rid the industry of $1.6 billion switching fees – making it easier to change carriers
  • Attacked overages with $2.4 billion a year on the way out
  • Got rid of data buckets – now everyone can get an unlimited plan – thanks to T-Mobile

I look back at this with real pride. Not so much at what I’ve accomplished, but at what this team has done. My job has always been to unleash and empower – and I’ll tell you what, we are not done yet. This industry is far from where it needs to be, and its entire structure and landscape is changing. My team and I will be right there in the thick of the evolution of content – as everything goes mobile, and we will continue to drag the duopoly (yep, kicking and screaming) into treating their customers better and delivering more value!

Here’s to the next five years! #wewontstop