Customer Dissatisfaction With Mobile Carriers Runs High: Capgemini

A new study reports that if Google, Facebook or Apple offered mobile phone services, 52% of U.S. consumers surveyed said they would switch.

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Americans are so unhappy with their existing mobile carriers that if Google, Facebook, Apple or Amazon offered widely available mobile phone services at affordable prices, about 52 percent of 592 mobile customers surveyed said they would switch to give those companies a try. That's the conclusion of a 26-page study from Capgemini Consulting that found that many customers are dissatisfied with the poor customer service and overall mobile services they are receiving.

The data for the report, "Unlocking Customer Satisfaction: Why Digital Holds the Key for Telcos," was compiled in January and February; the study examined customer experiences and additional Web-based secondary research for almost 60 mobile operators in the United States and in Western Europe.

U.S. consumers aren't the only ones who aren't happy with their mobile carriers, according to the study. Overall, about 44 percent of 5,776 consumers surveyed in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden all said they would be willing to switch from their providers if affordable digital mobile services were started up by companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

The study also found that 62 percent of the U.S. respondents said they would be willing to switch to a digital-only mobile provider that offers its services without storefronts or dealers, compared to 58 percent in the overall study, including in Europe. The two attributes that the respondents said they are seeking from a prospective mobile provider are affordable data plans and reliable customer support, the report continued.

The 62 percent of U.S. respondents who said they would switch was the highest percentage for any of the countries surveyed, according to the study, which was conducted by Capgemini Consulting's Digital Transformation Institute, an in-house think tank.

The findings confirm the confidence that consumers already show in brands like Google, Apple and Facebook, according to Sarah Pope, principal of the Digital CIO Advisory for Capgemini Consulting in North America. "When people think of those names, they generally think of a positive experience. With their [existing] carriers, they tend to think of contracts" and poor customer service experiences. "It's more of that brand association and the trust factor here."

Much of that comes from generally positive experiences customers say they have when they visit an Apple store, where they feel that the company "knows" them and treats them well, she said.

"People expect they would get cheaper data plans" through these companies, compared to the existing big-four U.S. mobile carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, said Pope. "That goes back to they feel like Google and Apple consider the customer's needs and the customer experience as their priorities."

For consumers, that would be a welcome change, where they could feel empowered and in control of their mobile services, rather than feeling like they have to put up with whatever traditional carriers choose to do, she said.

One example of this is Google's Project Fi, which leverages several mobile networks to provide what can be a better user experience, said Pope.

Project Fi is an inexpensive mobile phone service that Google unveiled in April 2014 as an experiment to explore new ideas in wireless connectivity, according to earlier eWEEK stories. Using a special Project Fi Nexus Android phone, users can make calls when they are near a WiFi connection or are automatically connected to the cellular networks of Sprint or T-Mobile, which provide 4G LTE services for the program. User connections are transitioned between WiFi and the cellular networks as they move from one network to another under the system. Project Fi can be used in more than 120 countries at the same rates that customers are charged for using data in the United States, according to the program.

Under the offering, customers pay $20 per month for cellular access, plus data fees of $10 per gigabyte only for the data that is consumed each month. The monthly access fee also includes unlimited talk and texting, WiFi tethering and international coverage in more than 120 countries. Project Fi began as an invitation-only offering, but was opened to any users in March.

With such alternatives, consumers can feel that "suddenly the power is in my fingertips and I'm in control," said Pope. "I think that's where this is coming from."