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Friday, June 30, 2006

Denny Strigl – Cellular Superstar

It is not very often that you see a company regularly and frequently outperform its’ peers quarter after quarter. It is also not very often you see that the company was formed by integrating four very different companies with four very different types of staff. It is also not very often that the company is in its’ 3rd generation of technology and has remained the leader during all the generations. The first conclusion you must draw is that the guy in charge is doing an excellent job. The company is Verizon Wireless (VZW) and the guy in charge is Denny Strigl.

I was thinking of the guy’s brilliance as I was reading his speech at a Gartner Group conference. He basically said that customers don’t like early termination fees, the industry should remove them and VZW was going to lead the way with pro-rating them over the life of the contract. The reason this is brilliant is not because it is going to VZW some money in short term, but because it will be difficult for the competitors to match the offer. So if the competition doesn’t match the offer VZW has a key selling advantage in signing up new customers; if they do they will lose out because they have a higher churn rate and lower customer satisfaction factor than VZW. Regardless of what the competition does, VZW will reinforce its position as the consumers champion delivering another priceless notch on the VZW brand totem pole.

Denny Strigl has regularly used his annual speech at the Gartner conference to champion various causes for the consumer: abolishing Number Portability charges (and thereby benefiting VZW again because of the lower churn rate) and refusing to join the industries attempt to publish a Wireless Directory (again, the message was VZW value your privacy and this has been reinforced by VZW aggressively suing anyone who spams anything to the client base whether unsolicited calls or texts.)

Differentiation through being the consumers champion is very powerful in the marketplace and costs a lot less than differentiation through reliability (despite which VZW leads the industry on) and technology (despite which again VZW leads the industry on). Finally for the shareholders he differentiates from the competition in terms of cost: VZW is by far and away the cheapest operator in terms of opex per customer. What a guy!!!

Yesterday, Merrill Lynch released its’ quarterly estimates of “net adds” in the US cellular instry and it should be no surprise that once again VZW will be leading the industry if Merrill's crystal ball is functioning correctly.

If and when, Sir John Bond starts looking around for a new CEO, he should start at the US Joint Venture...