The Cutting Room – Issue 412


Overall, it tells us the mobile industry is not all that when it comes to customer service.
Aura, the author of the MICS survey, reckons 70 per cent is “averagely good”. It suggests other retail sectors would aspire to such a score and frequently attain one. But only Virgin Mobile got over 70 per cent and did so on a handful of stores, so presumably a smaller sample size. Not that it matters, because there were plenty of retail brands discarded for insufficient sample sizes, indicating Virgin Mobile’s was sure enough.

We also know that, among handset manufacturers, there is no real affinity brand; no Harley Davidson, no Lexus, no Bruce Springsteen, as it were – all names whose fan bases verge on the obsessive. Or at least, not according to the MICS survey, which in the end discarded Apple and BlackBerry scores on the grounds that, this time, they were obtained from an insufficient sample base and could reasonably be skewed.

In terms of retail, which is where the most significant losses and gains occurred, Orange’s miserable score should be seen against a generally weak industry for retail satisfaction.

And, yet, over five years of MICS polling, scores have been pretty steady, suggesting any kind of sudden fluctuation should be notable.

O2, even if it dropped marginally, is the model of consistency and the best the industry can muster for steady quality. It might be that the recruitment of armies of store and call centre staff to support the mad iPhone frenzy through Christmas dampened performance levels slightly.

Nevertheless, it should be congratulated for a good showing here, even if it can, and should, do better.

What of the high street independents? It would appear the complication of offering multiple network contracts messes with customers satisfaction levels, or perhaps the problem comes from having too many masters – and, therefore, changeable sales targets and service levels. Maybe. Phones 4U, despite its attempts to get cuddly, appears to have failed to move away from its image of the ‘hard sell’ in the minds of punters.

And Carphone, which has just seen off its retail managing director Anthony Catterson, the former Phones 4U retail firebrand and the man credited with bringing a Phones 4U sales edge to the old impartial Carphone, just doesn’t register much for customer satisfaction.

It is interesting to see UK chief Andrew Harrison step back to the coalface (see page 6). It needs to repurpose its retail operation for this burgeoning age of mobile data and technological pyrotechnics.

Carphone’s gameplan suddenly looks much clearer, and Harrison’s wish to make the business more nimble to tackle new sales opportunities looks like a fair one.

Even if it continues to slog away around the 60 per cent mark in next year’s MICS survey, and fails to win Vodafone airtime contracts back, it is entirely predictable it will be able to offer much more than any other retailer next year. For choice alone it will come top in 2009, as it would now.