smartphone researchPoor quality customer care is the main reason 1/3 of consumers surveyed by Ovum on behalf of service assurance vendor Tektronix Communications switched mobile service providers. Over half said that it was one of the key reasons for switching.

Nearly one-quarter (22%) of mobile subscribers in surveys conducted in Australia, India, Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. rated their service provider’s customer care five or less out of a possible ten points. And 24% plan to switch providers in the next 12 months, according to “Who Cares, Wins – Customer Service Perceptions and Churn.”

Consumers lack confidence in customer care agents’ ability to quickly identify and resolve problems, according to the survey results. Respondents were least confident in customer care agents’ ability to address poor network coverage, followed by a lack of confidence in the operator’s ability to deal with poor handset performance or dropped calls.

“Despite significant investment in human resource and infrastructure improvements in recent times, customer care continues to be a challenge for operators, impacting key KPI’s such as customer satisfaction and NPS scores, and presenting an ever increasing risk of churn,” Tektronix Communications’ president Lyn Cantor was quoted as saying.

“The study shows that quality of customer care is a key concern for mobile users. If an operator is not equipped to cater to subscriber needs then it could significantly influence their decision to churn,” consulting director at Ovum’s Customer Insights team Angel Dobardziev added.

Twenty-four percent of respondents said they intend to switch providers in the next 12 months, highlighting the risk to mobile network operators. Nearly one-quarter said they had changed providers in the last 18 months, while another 42% said they were undecided at best about switching.

Subscribers ranked poor value for the money (38%), network quality (34%) and a limited range of services and features (27%) as the key drivers of churn. Poor customer care was cited by 30% as their main reason for switching providers. Fifty-three percent cited it as one of several key reasons.

“Consumers want to be able to get through to a customer care agent promptly and they want their queries to be resolved quickly and effectively. As it stands, apart from dealing with billing queries, consumers don’t feel customer service agents are equipped to do this as well as they should,” Dobardziev said.

To reduce churn, mobile service providers can improve customer care by reducing response times to customer inquiries. Sixty-nine percent of subscribers said they expected to be able to reach a customer care agent quickly. Another 64% placed great emphasis on how quickly their query is resolved by the agent, according to Tektronix.

Added Cantor, “Operators can’t rely on price and competitive service offerings alone to retain and attract customers. Customer care has become a critical success factor and is often one of the few differentiators in an increasingly commoditized marketplace.

“Approaching the challenge differently, leveraging innovation and information from the network and focusing on a ‘lean approach’ to process cycle-time reduction is what we believe is missing in the operator’s approach today to drive breakthrough results.

“The results of the survey demonstrate that operators face the possibility of losing almost one in four subscribers to the competition unless they can ensure that customers are receiving levels of care that live up to their expectations.”

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