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U.S. Cellular: Billing 'Was Below Our Standards'

By Craig Galbraith
January 08, 2014 - News

Chicago-based U.S. Cellular says it has made progress in addressing the problems that arose during a recent billing-system conversion.

Most functionality, included automated payments, has been implemented, the company said. Most billings are up to date.

"Notwithstanding the progress our teams have been making in commercializing this new system, the experience we delivered to our customers was below our standards," said Kenneth Meyers, U.S. Cellular president and CEO. "Individual customers have experienced delays in activation and billing backlogs, which have created customer confusion."

Part of the reason that the carrier made the billing transition was to accommodate the iPhone and other new Apple products, which it recently started carrying. It's also helped U.S. Cellular offer shared data plans for the first time. If that isn't incentive enough to stay with the company, it's giving out free reward points.

"As a token of our appreciation for our customers' patience, we issued reward points to every account in the program," Meyers said. "This almost $50 million investment, which will impact profitability in the fourth quarter, is our way of showing customers they can and should expect more from us."

The billing conversion and the subsequent problems related to it have contributed to increased churn at the Chicago-based carrier, the nation's fifth-largest. U.S. Cellular lost 71,000 customers in the third quarter of 2013, the majority of them being the most valuable – those on postpaid contracts. U.S. Cellular expects its churn to level off now that it's fixing the billing issue, and perhaps more important – it sells the iPhone.

Among the problems reported are customers getting more than one bill per month, as well as overcharges and balances that are inaccurate.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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