Challenging times for Evanston resident, U.S. Cellular CEO
Mary Dillon, CEO of U.S. Cellular. | Provided photo
Updated: November 13, 2012 5:33PM
U.S. Cellular President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Dillon has been called one of the most influential women in wireless, and she has her hands full as the No. 6 wireless operator seeks to grow profit, improve its share price and better compete against larger rivals like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others.
The Chicago-based company’s announcement last week that it is selling its 585,000 customer base in under performing markets and spectrum in Chicago and much of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio to Sprint Nextel for $480 million is designed to help in that regard and enable the company to better focus on markets where it has a stronger presence.
Since being hired to lead the company more than two years ago, Dillon, an Evanston resident and University of Illinois alumnus, has focused on accelerating the company’s 4G LTE deployment and attracting more smart phone customers with offerings of Samsung Galaxy S III phones and other devices as it has faced declines in its overall subscribers.
The company, which launched its 4G LTE network in March, currently covers more than 30 percent of customers with 4G and is on track to reach 58 percent of customers by the end of the year. By the end of 2013 it expects to cover roughly 87 percent of its customers.
Dillon, not available for comment, is described as a conciliator.
“She’s an outstanding woman,” said Tyrone Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, on which Dillon serves. Her strengths include “her intelligence, her ability to read a room and to listen to a discussion and make a fine point. . . . She knows how to get agreement.”
Dillon assumed the leadership role at U.S. Cellular without a background in wireless but with a strong background in marketing, branding and consumer loyalty. She previously was global chief marketing officer and executive vice president for McDonald’s Corp., where she led the company’s worldwide marketing efforts and global brand strategy across 188 countries. While there, she oversaw the marketing of the company’s “I’m Lovin’ it” campaign. Before that she was president of the Quaker Foods division of PepsiCo Corp., where had previously been vice president of marketing for Gatorade. At Quaker, she balanced work and family in a job sharing arrangement for a time.
At U.S. Cellular, the company earlier this summer launched a “Hello Better” ad campaign to attract more customers. The campaign, which included TV, print, radio and street advertising, knocks larger carriers for locking customers into long-term contracts and focuses on how U.S. cellular offers a better customer experience and overall customer satisfaction, noted Phil Goldstein of online trade publication FierceWireless.
Customer loyalty has been a priority under Dillon’s leadership which has seen the company launch industry-first initiatives, including the only loyalty reward program in wireless. Customers earn points for paying their bills on time and can use their points for free ringtones, faster phone upgrades and phones.~.