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Why Do Mobile Subscribers Jump Ship?

September 08, 2009

From “Ocean’s 11” (2001):
 
Terry: All right. Now I have complied with your every request, would you agree?
Rusty: I would.
Terry: Good, ‘cause now I have one of my own. Run and hide, a*hole. Run and hide. If you should be picked up next week buying a hundred-thousand dollar sports car in Newport Beach, I am going to be supremely disappointed. Because I want my people to find you, and when they do, rest assured we are not going to hand you over to the police. So my advice to you again is this: run and hide. That is all that I ask. 

 
It is a sorry state of affairs when mobile subscribers, if given a chance, jump ship and run as quickly as possible to a competitor. A recent posting regarding changes in T-Mobile’s ETF seems to support this premise. But why do customers jump? The reasons may be financial, or in some cases another operator has the latest bling, but in most cases it is due to a poor customer experience.
 
The dreaded tech support call is the one time where a typical subscriber has a live interaction with the nameless, faceless, operator. The one time that said operator could build loyalty (as Apple does with its stores), or the one time to really blow it. So, will T-Mobile face the same grim reaper as Sprint? Two recent studies could prove otherwise.
 
Net Promoter groups customers into promoters and detractors based on a satisfaction metric derived from customer experience. In a study published in 2008, they highlighted differences between operators with high scores, such as Verizon Wireless, and low scores such as Sprint. The conclusion was that the differences would impact the operator’s ability to attract new customers, retain customers, and the costs associated with these actions.
 
As we’ve seen, the analysis proved correct. Although T-Mobile was not at the top (VZW with 25 percent), its score was respectable (15 percent) vs Sprint (-20 percent). The same conclusions may be reached through scores published just this year by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), where once again, Verizon was in first (74), T-Mobile in second (71), and Sprint last (63).
 
So, in difference to Andy Garcia in “Ocean’s 11,” I’m going to predict that TMO’s subscribers won’t run and hide. The operator attracts a good and growing demographic, has done a fine job with its Android launch (including over-the-air updates, which some other vendors do not seem to have mastered), doesn’t seem to suffer iPhone covet, and from what I’ve heard from others in my building, delivers a great customer experience.

David Ginsburg is vide president of marketing at Innopath Software.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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