Mobile subscribers don’t really care about brand loyalty and would switch mobile networks in a heartbeat – if it wasn’t for the inconvenience involved.
These were the findings from the WDS Mobile Loyalty Audit for 2014, which tracked customer satisfaction responses from over 4,000 mobile customers across 30 mobile networks in four countries, including South Africa.
“Loyalty in the mobile industry remains fragile, with key satisfaction results still trailing behind many other industries,” WDS, a Xerox company, said.
“It’s indicative of a far more challenging and competitive environment where mobile operators no longer compete just among themselves, but with network and platform agnostic services such as WhatsApp.”
According to the survey’s findings, 34% of mobile customers at any one time are considering switching service providers.
Further, the group found that brand loyalty plays only a small part in customer retention, with customers simply sticking with a given operator due to inertia.
44% of customers expressed medium to high dissatisfaction with an operator’s service levels, but are not making any move to change providers.
A quarter (26%) of mobile customers admitted that the only reason they wouldn’t leave their mobile operator is because switching is just too inconvenient.
A question of satisfaction
Brand satisfaction is defined by WDS as how well the mobile operator meets (and exceeds) its customers’ expectations.
A third (34%) of customers indicated that are highly satisfied with their mobile operator, while one in four respondents indicated low satisfaction.
These percentiles shift over time, with satisfaction dropping within the first year, but recovering as time goes on, according to WDS, the customer service analytics company.
However, satisfaction is not always an indication of retention, the group says – with 17% of highly satisfied customers still indicating a switch to other networks.
“We call these customers ‘Mercenaries’ – highly satisfied customers who will happily switch if a better opportunity is presented to them.”
“Mercenaries typically chase low prices or buy to pursue a trend. It takes effort to keep this segment, but they show little to no loyalty in return.”
Conversely, retained customers are not necessarily loyal, WDS said.
“For the majority of brands, retention is still being driven by inertia, with many customers choosing not to switch because of perceived inconvenience. We call this group ‘Captives’.”
“Captives may be prevented from switching because of a technical, social or financial barrier. Once this barrier is removed, retention cannot be guaranteed,” WDS said.
What customers want
A key focus area in the report was centred around customer support. Customer satisfaction was scored low across all support channels, WSD noted.
In-store support rated the highest with 35% of customers highly satisfied, while online self-care was the lowest with just 29% being highly satisfied.
Customers who reported that they were highly satisfied with support experiences also rated their operator’s overall brand highly (64% highly satisfied). The reverse was also true, with those who rated the support experience poorly.
“The research suggests that, while customers value price, coverage and convenience in their initial purchase, these are merely ‘hygiene’ factors and aren’t drivers for long-term loyalty,” WDS said.
“Most switching customers were perfectly happy with their coverage for example. Instead, customers switch because of factors not necessarily considered in the initial purchase, such as loyalty programs, a sense of trust in the relationship and the quality of customer service.”
Although LTE (“4G”) wasn’t ranked as a top priority for mobile cutomers, South African respondents were the most receptive to LTE out of all countries surveyed. 37% of SA mobile users said they would upgrade to LTE.