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Wireless connector.

Tim McChesney is putting the pieces together to form Canada's best fully-integrated mobile communications business. In the process he's creating a company that customers will love to use.

The futurist Alvin Toffler identified mobility as one of only a handful of critical success factors for businesses planning to operate into the next century. The idea that the winning firms of tomorrow would be tied to locations seemed antithetical to success, given the pressures for greater speed, flexibility and productivity that Toffler foresaw shaping the markets of the future.

Most Canadian managers saw mobility as a way to do productive and useful things while away from the office or factory. And because the country is so large, the idea of increasing the value of otherwise wasted travel time had great potential.

Enter the cellular phone in 1985. At first its price and clitist connotations seemed to restrict its appeal to senior managers or a handful of super-salesmen. At the end of 1985 there were only 11,000 cellular subscribers in Canada and service was only available in large cities.

This changed quickly once scale economics lowered hardware prices and new applications popularized cellular use with small businesses and consumers. In contrast, by the end of 1992 there were more than one million cellular users and just over 85% of Canadians have access to cellular service.

Much of the credit for cellular's rapid growth goes to Tim McChesney. He's the Vice President, Marketing and Business Development with Bell Mobility Cellular, the largest cellular service provider in Ontario and Quebec. He's also responsible for strategic marketing and business strategies for the BCE Mobile group.

Today McChesney and his marketing team are presiding over the next revolution in wireless communications, all hinged around the seemingly innocuous word "mobility".

Our business is the business of keeping people in touch -- anytime, anywhere", said McChesney from his Toronto office.

And it seems to be working. Bell Mobility Cellular provides service to 330,000 customers. They process 2 million calls every business day with more than 80% of those calls occuring during normal business hours.

Superior customer care has been the cornerstone of the company's strategy since its founding. In fact, their customer service team was so good that in 1991 Bell Mobility Cellular became the first Canadian company ever to win the prestigious Gold Award of Excellence from the International Customer Service Association.

"But new technologies continue to emerge as competitors, providing customers with the luxury of a broad range of choices. It meant we had to change how we looked at our marketplace, since customers wanted clear direction and an assurance that one supplier could grow with their needs", McChesney noted.

Bell Mobility Cellular's parent, BCE Mobile, is part of BCE, Canada's largest company. It owned businesses offering the full set of mobility-enhancing services -- cellular, paging and message management services (ie. voice messaging, information services, facsimile and data application), private fleet radio, wireless packet data, and air-to-ground public telephone -- through distinct and often incompatible technology platforms.

"Each company was addressing the same basic customer need -- keeping people in touch. But things were getting tougher for the customer since applications were beginning to overlap and the lines between wireless and wired services were blurring. I asked myself 'Was there a more effective way to go to market?'" said McChesney.

He probed further and concluded: customers were beginning to define their needs around applications rather than around wireless technologies, but because of the market structure, we're forced to choose a technology before they could find a company to fulfill their application needs.

"So we turned this problem upside down. We decided that we would be more strongly positioned by presenting our group of companies as one, complete mobile communications supplier that could simplify and define customer needs and provide them with an integrated solution drawn from the best technologies available in the country," McChesney said. "It also meant we began to define our core product differently. Today we are in the business of selling mobility."

Other hurdles remained. What to do about branding and internal organization? How to get the essential idea of this new vision out to customers?

"Bell Mobility," stated McChesney, "let us define a new service category and take dead aim at being number one in that category."

Bell Mobility was announced by BCE Mobile President and CEO John McLennan on May 12, 1992, at press conferences held simultaneously in Toronto and Montreal. Bell Mobility, he said, would be a family of mobile communications services including cellular telephone, paging, mobile data and fax, private radio, air-to-ground, and a variety of future services.

All of BCE Mobile's holdings were immediately renamed to incorporate the power of the new brand:

* Bell Cellular became Bell Mobility Cellular;

* National Pagette became Bell Mobility Cellular;

* Bell Radiocommunications (private radio) became Bell Mobility Radio;

* Skytel (air-to-ground) became Bell Mobility Skytel.

In essence, McChesney's strategy behind Bell Mobility was to create one brand offering multiple services that could replace the unwieldy and confusing situation in the wireless telecommunications industry where multiple brands offered separate services. In Canada three-quarters of wireless customers are businesses, including construction, sales, service, real estate and manufacturing.

Bell Mobility's first six months were a commercial hit. The company recorded strong growth in cellular and paging activations. More and more passengers on Air Canada's North American routes began to make use of the unique public telephone service available at passengers' seats, and the company signed a large contract to provide packet data services.

In fact, across Canada, the Bell Mobility concept was adopted with such force that McChesney was named the 1992 Industrial Marketer of the Year by the Industrial Marketing and Research Association of Canada.

In his acceptance speech at the award ceremony, McChesney acknowledged the dimensions of the job that lay ahead: "We still have a lot to do. The biggest challenge we face is in presenting a coordinated and consistent face to the customer in terms of sales, distribution, customer service, and marketing."

The company plans to introduce one-stop shopping through a new distribution channel that debuts in Toronto and Montreal. Called "Personal Communications Centres, these new outlets will enable a business or personal customer to have their unique communications needs analyzed by Bell Mobility experts who will prepare, implement and support a solution.

"The idea is to make it simpler for the customer while recognizing and respecting that everyone's needs, level of understanding and budget are different, said McChesney. "We intend to have these stores in high-traffic areas and make them incredibly user-friendly."

It doesn't stop there. Recently the company introduced Mobility Canada, a market and technology planning arm to unite wireless carriers in other provinces to develop national standards of service and seamless, coast-to-coast delivery.

And at the end of December Mobility Canada received a license to offer a new service, personal cordless telephones, which McChesney believes has the potential to introduce the mobility advantage to the consumer market in a significant way.

"They're an economical way for consumers to make phone calls outside the home within 300 feet of one of our base stations, using the same handset they use in the privacy of their own home," he noted.

PCT base stations will be in office buildings, malls, airports, gas stations -- anywhere people congregate. Experts estimate the potential market for PCT service to be more than 4 million Canadians by 1996-1997.

McChesney is characteristically modest when asked how it feels to be an architect behind a new idea: "It's been a real team effort. Everyone here has pulled together because they're excited about being at the forefront of change in telecommunications and because they're dedicated to delivering excellent service."

But his tone strengthens when asked to define what mobility really means to users: "The essence of mobility is a new state of advantage for our customers. Not only can they communicate anywhere, anytime, but now they can get mobility from one company that will give them the best solutions and be around to support them for a long time to come."

He adds: "We've brought five independent companies and their technologies together with a common vision and single name. By putting the stake in the ground now, and by helping customers shape the technology, rather than the other way around, we'll be able to bring mobility to more Canadians than anyone ever thought possible."

For Tim McChesney the 1990's signifies simplicity, value for the dollar, and reliability for wireless communicators.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:cellular communications
Author:Reid, Douglas
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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