The T-Mobile CEO’s Crusade for Customers Is Paying Off
T-Mobile long ago secured its place as the fastest-growing wireless carrier in the U.S. with a series of unconventional promotions intended to steal market share from rivals Verizon (VZ), AT&T, and Sprint (S). But its latest effort—free pizza, milk shakes, and a movie rental for every customer each Tuesday—tops them all.
When the promotion began on June 7, people downloaded the mobile application required to get the freebies more than 1 million times in 48 hours, overwhelming T-Mobile’s servers and frustrating customers who couldn’t secure their free medium pie. They took to Twitter in droves to complain—and that’s when CEO John Legere entered the fray: “Still seeing huge #TMobileTuesdays app volume, but we’re making good! You won’t lose anything and we’ll make this right ASAP! #StayTuned.”
Today pretty much every company has a Twitter presence, and many CEOs tweet. But T-Mobile’s chief executive goes way beyond the usual corporate pablum. Legere is tweeting about his travels, his kids, his slow-cooked meals, and his rainy runs through Seattle. He’s constantly heckling his larger rivals, AT&T and Verizon, which he regularly refers to as “dumb and dumber.” (Not that Sprint escapes criticism. Legere’s dustups with CEO Marcelo Claure have become Internet legend.)
Legere’s “bad-boy shtick” plays well with T-Mobile’s customer base of urban millennials, says longtime telecom analyst Craig Moffett. But he also has a “remarkably sharp” strategic vision. “Behind all the bluster and profanity is a very cerebral CEO,” Moffett says.
For years T-Mobile had the fewest subscribers among the big four U.S. wireless carriers. (It finally passed Sprint last year to become No. 3.) Its successful surge from behind is due in large part to a strategy to fashion T-Mobile into a rule-breaking, status-quo-busting “un-carrier.” T-Mobile was the first U.S. wireless provider to ditch two-year contracts and slash global roaming fees. Since Legere took the top job in 2012, T-Mobile has doubled its customer base to 66 million. The company’s stock price is up 140%, to about $42, since it began trading in May 2013.
Chief operating officer Mike Sievert says T-Mobile—and Legere—won’t let up. “There’s a lot more left to do,” he says. And a lot more pizza to deliver.
A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “What Will John Legere Do Next?”