Tesco Mobile Triumphs in J.D. Power Study

Mobile phone customers in the UK are considerably more satisfied than they were a year ago,  particularly with call quality, coverage and cost of service, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 UK Mobile Phone Customer Satisfaction Study, released today.

Now in its 14th year, the study measures customer satisfaction with pre-pay and pay monthly plans among the leading UK mobile network service providers. It is based on responses from more than 3,400 pre-pay and pay monthly mobile phone customers throughout the UK, with the research carried out in March and April 2011.

Overall satisfaction with providers is based on performance across six factors: call quality and coverage; offerings and promotions; cost of the service; billing or topping up; customer service; and handset. Tesco Mobile fares particularly well, ranking top among both pre-pay and pay monthly users.

Overall satisfaction among pre-pay mobile phone customers averages 707 on a 1,000-point scale in 2011. This is 18 points higher than 2010. Similarly, satisfaction among customers who are on monthly contracts has increased by 25 points from 2010, to an average of 698. Improvements have occurred across all aspects of the customer experience, with the largest gains in the call quality and coverage, and cost of service factors.

Increased penetration of smartphones and handsets with advanced features among UK consumers is influencing these improvements, the study notes. It finds that owners of smartphones and feature-rich models are notably more satisfied overall (718, on average), compared with owners of traditional mobile phones (701), particularly with factors related to cost of service and handset satisfaction. Although smartphone users typically pay more for service than owners of traditional handsets, the enhanced features and utility of advanced phones are likely to elevate customer perceptions of the value they receive.

In addition, the proportion of customers who indicate owning a phone with smartphone capability has increased substantially during the past year. In 2010, 28 per cent of pre-pay customers and 58 per cent of contract customers said their phone was equipped with a touch screen or QWERTY keypad. These figures have increased to 40 per cent and 86 per cent, respectively, in 2011.

Among pre-pay providers, Tesco Mobile ranks highest for a second consecutive year, with a score of 742. Tesco Mobile performs particularly well in the call quality/coverage; cost of service; offerings and promotions; and handset factors. Following Tesco Mobile in the rankings are O2 (723) and Vodafone (720).

Tesco Mobile also ranks highest in the monthly payment plan segment, with a score of 741, and performs particularly well in four of six factors: cost of service; offerings and promotions; customer service; and handset. Following Tesco Mobile in the segment rankings are O2 (718) and T-Mobile and Virgin Media, tied on 703.

“The industry has made notable gains in strengthening network infrastructure, and has managed to do so without raising service costs, which is undoubtedly good news for customers,” says Stuart Crawford-Browne, director of service industries at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, as adoption of data-intensive smartphones increases, it will be interesting to see how well providers keep up with pressure on networks, and whether price increases and caps on data usage will ensue. These could curtail the positive momentum on overall satisfaction that has developed during the past couple of years.”