American Express’s Uniqueness in Business
American Express had a unique status in American marketing. Unlike any other company its name and logo associated, almost without exception, with the highest quality of goods and services. The company represented itself as a kind of exclusive club, where its members expected to be treated as such “membership has its privileges”. It was for many years, the company’s advertising slogan. On Chenault’s part, he tried to ensure that the merchandise offered to members with their monthly bill was of luxurious quality and that customers received prompt, reliable, and courteous service.
These were the value as well the companies mission, and also a means via which the company promoted ethics among its team of professionals. The American Express name was really the company’s most salable commodity. The significance of Chenault’s Leadership to AMEX Success. As president of the domestic consumer-card division Chenault was instrumental in turning around the charge-card business.
His many accomplishments included expanding the company’s customer base beyond the affluent cardholders who paid off their balances each month, signing on an impressive number of gas stations, discounters, and supermarkets as acceptors of the card, establishing the later highly regarded Membership Rewards loyalty program (one of the biggest, if not the biggest, rewards program on the market), and striking partnerships with companies like Delta Airlines, wherein the company expanded its lending business through the issuing of co-branded cards that allowed customers to carry balances.
Chenault eventually won dissenters over, gradually transforming AMEX from an uncompetitive, obsolete company into a booming business. The level of interest in the Membership Rewards program surprised even Chenault. Quests for airline miles generated a surge in AMEX charges, and the program helped AMEX woo new merchants as well: the number accepting the card grew from 3. 6 million in 1993 to more than 7. 2 million worldwide in 1999. People inside the company looked up to Chenault, even those who had competed with him for the CEO spot.
The intense loyalty that he generated in colleagues was a product of his low-key, caring management style. Rather than being afraid of their leader, as was the relationship between many subordinates and their CEOs, Chenault’s employees enjoyed his inspiring presence. The classic axiom states that leaders can lead by fear or by love. Chenault seemed to motivate workers to fear losing his love. Louise Parent, the executive vice president and general counsel for the company, remarked in Black Enterprise, “He is the kind of person who inspires you to want to do your best. Part of the reason is his example”.