SA consumers apathetic toward mobile service

Despite a poor experience with products and services from communications service providers (CSPs), most consumers do not complain to their provider, according to new research conducted by IBM.

The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) conducted the survey with 13,000 consumers in 24 countries, including 1,500 consumers and the major South African and African CSPs.

One in six South African consumers surveyed said that they often cannot make voice calls on their mobile, with 16% frequently experiencing disconnections during a mobile call.

One in four consumers said they often cannot connect to the Internet through their mobile phone, and once connected, 14% of consumers frequently experience disconnections during the Internet session.

The same number said that, most of the time, they do not understand the invoice – and even worse, 15% believe that in most cases they are charged too much.

More than half of respondents (56%), however, do not complain to their provider.

A third said that it is too much hassle to get through to the call center, and 24% don’t believe complaining makes any difference. A quarter of respondents said that they often have to wait too long in the queue to speak to a customer service agent whenever they call the service center.

While consumers might not be connecting with their CSPs, IBM finds that they are definitely connecting with other consumers. As many as 83% of consumers surveyed said they are likely to tell their family and friends about a bad communications experience, and 84% will avoid providers associated with poor experiences.

Increased spending

In South Africa, consumers – particularly the younger generation (under 25s) – expect to increase spending on all categories surveyed. In the context of communications, 34% of all consumers expect to increase spending on mobile phone usage, 33% on mobile broadband, and 26% on landline, IBM said.

The technology group found that social networking has become a key communication channel in South Africa. By far and away, South Africa has the higher proportion of daily users of social networking sites than any other country surveyed, IBM found.

The under 25s even communicate more using social networking than all other forms of communication, with 90% using it daily. 76% of consumers surveyed stream or download videos from YouTube and other video sites once a week or more, the survey found.

CSP brand loyalty

According  to IBM, as consumers encounter new products, services and experiences on virtually a daily basis, many consumers fell less loyalty towards their brands. While CSPs have invested heavily in loyalty and customer satisfaction programs to increase customer advocacy, the proportion of advocates is low.

Only one third of African consumers are advocates for their CSPs, with almost half of customers – some 49% – antagonistic towards their CSP.

“In other words, one out of every two customers has less positive feelings towards his or her communications provider. While advocates drive the highest impact on shareholder value, antagonists cost more to support and are prone to speak negatively about their providers,” the survey said.

Customer loyalty is closely related to trust, IMB noted, and trust in telecom providers in South Africa scores relatively well compared to other types of providers.

“They are only behind healthcare providers and banks. Which means that they can become a legitimate player in vertical markets where trust in managing private/personal information, including medical data and financial transactions, is key.”

Compared to other countries, the survey found that South African consumers are keen on telecom-enabled lifestyle services. Healthcare, electric/gas utilities, insurance and banking offer the best prospects for adjacent market applications in the country.

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SA consumers apathetic toward mobile service