Apple, Tesco win brand wars

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According to research company Aura, mobile companies need to excel at three things if they want satisfied customers – brand, product and service.

There were clear winners and losers in Aura’s 2009 Mobile Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey (MICS) based on performance in these categories.

The sixth annual survey conducted by the Buckinghamshire-based firm between December and February returned 2,500 responses from a range of demographics, to gauge how companies in the retail, airtime and handset sectors satisfy customers, and for what customers are particularly impressed/unimpressed.

Below 60 is poor, 70 per cent is good and around 80 is excellent.

There are three clear winners on the network side: Tesco Mobile, its MVNO host O2 and fellow MVNO Virgin Mobile, which emerged with the strongest brands and have appeased customers by offering a continuous stream of loyalty incentives.

Below the ‘average’ line are Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and 3, which have all slipped since last year’s survey – although Vodafone and 3 maintain their 2008 rankings.

MVNO contenders have successfully connected their audience to their brands, while the remainder of the mainstream networks, bar O2, have struggled to pitch to all extremes of the market spectrum and therefore failed to connect closely with certain elements within their bases.

Niche market MVNOs such as Lebara and Lycamobile have yet to make an appearance in Aura’s MICS report because their relatively small customer bases mean insufficient response numbers to be included in the survey.

Aura says it recognises how important brand is to customer satisfaction and that new niche companies could muster pleasing results. It says upcoming surveys will look for ways to get results from such parts of the mobile market too. In future, Aura will also ask participants to rate their satisfaction of broadband services, an area not currently addressed in the MICS report.

The handset side has perhaps seen the most striking changes, with relatively new entrants Apple and Research in Motion (RIM) causing competitor rankings to slide. Aura is twitchy about the sample sizes, however, and is unready to release actual figures for the pair. Suffice to say Apple’s iPhone led the competition by some margin.

Whether it smashed the coveted 80 per cent mark is unclear. And RIM’s BlackBerry ranking was close to Samsung’s 67.3 per cent, though where it placed in relation to the Korean manufacturer is, again, unclear. For the purpose of the graphic over page, we have given Samsung the benefit of the doubt and placed RIM third.

The biggest drops came from Sagem and Sony Ericsson; as Sagem’s brand presence presumably began to fade out of the market following its sale to venture capitalists last year, and Sony Ericsson’s brand loses some of its ‘cool’ factor.  Indeed, brand appears to be the biggest asset in customer satisfaction.

Meanwhile, Aura’s retail results remain this year exclusive to those who have already purchased the MICS report.

Full article in Mobile News issue 436 (April 6, 2009).

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