You won’t find many CEOs on Twitter using their own accounts to be the voice of a brand. And you probably won’t find any tweeting about crapping their pants – unless you’re one of T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s 555,000 followers. He’s the over-the-top head honcho who doesn’t make a pretense of keeping it clean. It could just be that some of that crass energy is exactly what’s been fueling T-Mobile’s incredible two-year turnaround. With Legere at the helm, the company has prospered through a fusion of enticing and inexpensive no-risk no-contract plans, making the iPhone available and a saucy social strategy straight out of Legere’s playbook.
After all, this is the same guy whose comments about the wireless sphere include, “What a stupid, broken, arrogant industry” and “We are either going to take over this whole industry, or these bastards are going to change.”
But it takes more than a no holds barred personality and an outspoken Twitter presence to take a brand from zero to hero. Legere is the mastermind behind T-Mobile’s wildly successful Uncarrier campaign, which used the power of fans and followers to spread hashtags like #breakupletter, #unleash and #nocontract across the social landscape. That word of mouth paid off big time for the company, which added a significant number of new subscribers – most of whom were, ironically, contract subscribers. More importantly, Legere is a listener who is unafraid to engage with people one to one. He’s also whip smart and funny – two traits he brings to the table when engaging with fans and critics of his brand.
Legere chatted briefly about his approach to customer relations at the 2014 GeekWire Summit, and it’s almost ridiculously simple. To wit: “The truth is, I learn almost everything I need to know to run T-Mobile [on Twitter]. On the email from individual customers or on Twitter. I take every Tweet that comes in and I read it. I forward it to people. My executive team gets them, we reply, and at my staff meeting every Tuesday, we track social media impressions, what they are and how we’ve responded to them. It takes a ton of time, it’s a lot of fun… I listen, and I respond.”
And respond he did when it came to “bend-gate,” the hullabaloo that erupted after a glut of YouTube videos allegedly showed the iPhone 6 Plus bending during normal use. Legere’s message? That of the iPhone 6 Plus units sold there were roughly nine cases of the phone actually bending, it’s a non-issue and it’s not slowing down demand. As you might suspect, his phrasing included a lot more four letter words …. It is also a fact that T-Mobile is the carrier of choice if you are looking to purchase the iPhone 6 Plus because of free 4G LTE data, no contracts and the large, dependable network – more bang for your buck, if you will.
No one is suggesting you adopt Legere’s salty style of holding forth, on Twitter or at the next press event. Salty is his signature, and his successes help people overlook a multitude of sins. But boil down his bombasticism and what you’re left with is boldness. Here’s what you can and should take away from Legere’s playbook: Don’t be afraid to read what people are saying about your product. Don’t shy away from jumping into online conversations about your brand. Don’t put praise on a pedestal and ignore condemnation. Be open to the idea that your customers might know what they want better than you do.
In part thanks to social media, Legere looks at every criticism as an opportunity for profitable change. It’s a strategy worth exploring and it’s not just about addressing issues. As Legere put it at the GeekWire Summit, it’s about building relationships – the kinds of relationships that make it easy to give people exactly what they want.