Tech companies created by and for the young aren’t the only businesses racking up impressive growth numbers as the economy recovers. One of the state’s fastest growing companies has doubled its revenues and employees since 2008 by paying attention to older folks.
Bigger phone keys are one way to capture the older cell-phone user.
The founders of Consumer Cellular did not set out to build a mobile phone service for senior citizens when they launched the business in 1995. Their goal was to make cell phones affordable and easy to use for everyone. Once they realized that their message resonated most clearly with mobile phone users over 50, they honed their business to serve customers who are often overlooked in the rush to get in on the latest and greatest. “It was a matter of listening to our customers and seeing who they were,” says CEO John Marick. “The mature market is a natural fit for us.”
The company has developed a formal relationship with the American Association of Retired People as the group’s exclusive wireless provider, with marketing access to AARP members. They’ve also imported a cell phone specifically designed for seniors, with big, raised buttons, a large, bright screen and an easy-to-use interface. The European manufacturer, Doro, sells the handset exclusively through Consumer Cellular in the U.S. market.
Marick says the company’s service policies are designed with the customer in mind. There are no confusing contracts that lock in customers for years at a time. Rather than outsource service calls to India, Consumer Cellular runs call centers in Portland and Phoenix, with no time limit for helping customers solve their problems. As for billing, customers receive alerts when they are approaching their monthly limits, with one-button solutions to avoid high charges. “We make sure the customer gets the lowest possible bill,” says Marick. He acknowledges that in the short term, the company loses out on revenues by warning customers in advance, but in the long term, “we’re going to make much more money if we can give a customer a reason to stay with us.”
Consumer Reports recently named Consumer Cellular the best no-contract mobile provider in the nation. The business ended 2010 with $135 million in revenues and 300 employees. “We always have people out looking for good employees,” Marick says.