Customer satisfaction with contract and prepaid mobile phone service providers in Canada has increased substantially during the past year, according to the J.D. Power and Associates '2006 Canadian Wireless Customer Satisfaction Study'.
The study examined the attitudes of nearly 6,000 customers with their service, mobile phone and retail experience. Rankings were calculated for both contract service and prepaid service providers, as well as for mobile phone handset providers.
SaskTel Mobility ranked highest in customer satisfaction among contract service providers, while Virgin Mobile ranked highest among prepaid providers. LG was the highest-ranking mobile phone brand.
"The customer satisfaction gains we're seeing across the wireless industry are impressive, highlighting the efforts wireless providers are making to please their customers," said Charles Schade, senior director of research at J.D. Power and Associates. "Customer satisfaction is more important than ever in the wireless industry as the requirement to implement number portability approaches in March 2007, removing one of the main obstacles customers face when switching providers."
Customer satisfaction with contract service has increased over 2005. Additionally, all wireless service providers included in both the 2005 and 2006 contract service rankings registered substantial improvements from 2005. Overall satisfaction with contract service is based on five factors: call quality, billing, service plan options, cost of service and customer service.
With a strong improvement from 2005, SaskTel Mobility remains the highest-ranking contract service provider for a second consecutive year. With an overall index score of 728, SaskTel received the highest ratings in call quality, service plan options and customer service. SaskTel was then followed by Fido (713), Telus Mobility (687), Aliant (685) and MTS Mobility (682).
"Contract service providers have been focusing on value during the past year, clearly promoting a message of affordability for all consumers," said Schade. "However, while favourable pricing attracts new customers, call quality has increased in importance to become the most influential driver of satisfaction, signalling rising expectations among consumers."
According to the study, the average number of minutes contracted for a weekday service plan is 187, though customers report using only 51% of those minutes. Contract customers use an average of 16 long-distance minutes, which accounts for only 29% of their contracted amount.
The study also found that satisfaction with prepaid providers was up significantly since 2005. Five factors are measured to determine customer satisfaction with prepaid service: service plan options, billing, call quality, cost of service and customer service.
Virgin Mobile (764) ranked highest among prepaid service providers for the second consecutive year, receiving the highest segment ratings in all five factor areas. Aliant (692) and Telus Mobility (691) followed.
Although prepaid service doesn't have the same penetration rates in Canada as contract service, it is significantly less expensive on a monthly basis. The average monthly fee paid by contract customers is Can$74, compared with Can$29 for prepaid customers. Some 42% of prepaid customers had previously used a contract service.
Mobile phone handset satisfaction is measured based on customer ratings of five factors: features, physical design, durability, battery and operation. Satisfaction with mobile phones also increased over 2005.
LG (732) ranked highest among mobile phone brands, performing particularly well in features, designs and operation. LG was followed by Sanyo (727), Samsung (724) and Sony Ericsson (722).
"Wireless users increasingly rely on their mobile phones to keep them connected to their schedules, contacts, and e-mail, as well as entertainment services," explained Schade. "The number of standard features on phones is continuously expanding, with nearly one-half phones now offering features such as colour screens, SMS, internet access and games. However, room still exists for consumers' ever-growing appetite for features."