Strategies of Brand Leaders

Building successful business and achieving as well as sustaining product leadership calls for a smart strategy combined with discipline to implement and achieve the plan. Understanding how the successful brand leaders have achieved the same helps management students to learn the ropes of the game. If you are hoping to make it as a business manager or a marketing manager, it is important for you to know the realities of how businesses are managed in the current environment, especially where the competition is very intense and the old rules of the game are not valid anymore. One of the best ways of understanding how things work is to read up as much as possible about the different Organizations and understand their success formula.

One of the very interesting case studies that the students in the American University get to read about is of AT&T’s Universal Card Services. At a time when the credit card market was dominated by Retail Banks who found it highly profitable business, Universal Card Services made an entry and within two years went on to become a force to reckon with.

Let us look at the market scenario at this time. The market was flooded with various credit card companies but there was hardly any brand awareness for, the customers were only aware that the card was issued either by Master or Visa. The credit card services were no good. Every transaction whether it was a change of address or a payment confirmation was always a hassle, time consuming and involved a lot of paper work and follow up on the part of the customers. Besides, the annual fee and the service charges were very high.

AT&T Universal Card Company understood very smartly that the customers were not happy with the high charges and poor services and the time was just ripe to give millions of credit card customers a new option that was ‘a dream come true’. AT&T Universal credit card services went on to introduce new credit card riding on AT&T’s brand reputation and with superior and faster customer service. Customers suddenly found themselves with unbelievable option of a credit card that did not charge them any annual fee, lower service charges and rate of interest with unmatched, efficient and easy customer service.

Within two years, the company expanded their customer base to over 20 million users and it is reported that they achieved a breakeven within 27 months of their operations.

It is quite interesting to see how the Company went on to make a dent in the already mature credit card market. While the retail banks were using legacy systems and depending upon manual processes to run their customer service operations, UCS took advantage of emerging technology, installed new systems and went ahead with process and system driven automated customer service program. Any customer dialing in for any service would find that it took him only a few minutes to get his address changed or a service request attended to. This was a huge relief when compared to the others who took several days and lots of documentation.

One of the most important factors that made this company successful was their relentless pursuit of excellence in operations as well as in providing a superior value proposition to their customers. When the rest of the credit card companies in the market took over a couple of weeks to verify the customer rating, process applications and issue credit card and courier the same to the customers, UCS completed the entire process within a week and reached it to the customer’s door in no time.

Internally the company focused on ensuring that their operations were efficient as well as defect free. The management kept their focus on investing into operations and raising the efficiency bar, while on the customer side, they concentrated on providing unmatched service as well as added value products. In a brilliant move, the company introduced a credit card combined with long distance call card thereby giving dual advantage to the customers. Now the customers could carry one card instead of two separate cards in their wallet as well as get a discount on the long distance calls.

Understanding how these leadership companies’ strategies, their discipline in managing the business and the underlying values and attitudes towards their business, products and customers give us valuable lessons in marketing.


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