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FEIGHNER SAYS CUSTOMER SERVICE WILL KEEP GTE WIRELESS AHEAD

When Mark Feighner took the reins as president of GTE Wireless Corp. a little more than two years ago, his goal was to profitably grow the company in line with industry growth.

Now he is keeping the pace by almost doubling the company’s wireless subscriber base in more than two years, adding its 4 millionth customer in April, and increasing its cellular customer base by 25 percent in 1996 with the addition of 738,000 new domestic cellular customers. GTE Wireless raked in $2.5 billion in annual revenues last year, just less than half of GTE Corp.’s consolidated revenues of $5.28 billion.

The company recently completed the launch of Code Division Multiple Access personal communications services networks in all of its licensed markets, Seattle, Spokane, Wash., and Cincinnati, and is quickly rolling out CDMA service in many of its cellular markets, located in 16 states. GTE Wireless also resells paging services, has significant investments internationally and is aggressively pursuing the Cellular Digital Packet Data market.

Feighner, a 25-year GTE veteran, has focused the past two years on customer service. He believes customer service will set apart the winners from the losers in an industry that will see fierce competition for subscribers. “Look at other industries-banking, airline, retail-their success stories revolve around customer service,” he said. “Many wireless companies think they will make money by owning, building and maintaining networks.”

Feighner has been working on creating a climate that stimulates employee growth and satisfaction, which includes significant investments in employee training and a 24-hour customer care center.

“It’s important that the employee is serving the customer,” said Feighner. “We work very heavily with self-managed teams and literally create an environment where the front line runs the show … We share critical information with our employees on how we’re doing and how the industry is doing concerning growth and revenues.”

The company said it recently commissioned an employee survey, which revealed that 72 percent felt empowered at work, while a recent customer survey revealed that 89 percent of customers felt very satisfied with GTE Wireless service.

Feighner’s goal for GTE Wireless is to be known as the company that is easiest to do business with. That goal becomes increasingly difficult as more carriers offer a variety of options and plans. The result is customer confusion.

“We offer service to meet each customer’s needs,” said Feighner. “We have it all. We’re not trying to sell one product.” And customer service doesn’t end with a sale. The company keeps a database of what products and services customers are using and anticipates their needs, possibly offering them a different service plan or a better product.

With intense marketing battles yet to come, Feighner has prepared his organization by bringing in experts from companies like Proctor & Gamble who are extremely familiar with intense consumer market competition.

“We’ve gone out of the industry to hire the world’s best marketing people who will do a better job of understanding the customer.” That experience combined with his 25 years of exposure in the telecommunications industry, makes the company well prepared for the battle to come, he said.

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