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Analysis

I Just Called to Say “I Love You”

Retention via mobile is booming, and carriers are going full-force with their customer-focused plans

Lauren Dowdle
December 12 2017

When was the last time you went somewhere and didn’t see a single cell phone? I’m not going to wait for an answer because it will probably take a while for you to remember your last phone-free zone. That’s probably because just about everyone has a mobile device, from children and teens all the way up to senior citizens. Think about this: There are 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions and just a little more than 7 billion people on the earth. Considering this ‘newfangled’ technology has only been around for the past few decades, that’s pretty amazing. Because the majority of people already have a mobile plan, the main carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — have to focus on keeping their current customers satisfied, instead of trying to earn brand new business. And that’s a good thing for us consumers. The greater the competition between carriers, the fiercer the competition will become to keep and earn our business.

Mobile companies have several challenges. They must provide alluring prices, products and incentives, and continuously find ways to keep their customers around after the initial sale. And they have their work cut out for them. Many in the mobile market have ditched customer contracts in the past few years, so companies must now find other ways to prevent customers from leaving them for a competitor.

Why The Switch?

To figure out the best ways to retain customers, it’s crucial that mobile carriers first understand what makes them leave.

About 75 percent of consumers say they’ve been with their carrier for at least two years, and the majority plan to stick with the company, according to a Market Force survey. But for 12 percent, they say they plan to switch providers in the next 12 months.

Here are a few reasons why they made the switch:

  • 65 percent want to get a better value for their money
  • 35 percent want to improve the network coverage
  • 33 percent want more flexible plans

Mobile market retention strategies should focus on providing more cost-efficient plans, while leaving the customer plenty of flexibility. But how are carriers doing that?

Let’s break down some of the top mobile market retention strategies.

Deal Or No Deal?

Ask any user what their number one concern is with a mobile plan, and they’ll probably have a one word answer: data. From streaming videos to scrolling through social media, consumers need more data to use their devices freely. That means, mobile carriers need to be able to meet and exceed those needs if they want to stay in business.

Data usage is up to about 4.5 GB a month per person, compared to an average of 3.3 GB a year ago. The younger the mobile user, the more data they need. That’s why you’re seeing the major carriers start to offer competitive unlimited data plans.

It’s common to see slashed prices on unlimited plans and a more generous data-amount offering. For the plans that aren’t unlimited, customers can expect a flat-rate charge if they go over.

Build A Brand

Loyalty is especially vital for mobile carriers because they are trying to keep their customers from leaving for another competitor, and it’s not a rare occurrence.

We found a breakdown of how many of the four main carriers’ customers who say they won’t switch carriers:

  • T-Mobile: 23 percent
  • AT&T: 16 percent
  • Verizon: 15 percent
  • Sprint: 7 percent

T-Mobile is the obvious winner here, but how have they accomplished that? Think about their recent branding strategies. They’ve tried to create a persona of being the “Un-Carrier” by simplifying its plans, offering no contracts, including the tax and fees in the advertised plan rates and even providing Netflix for qualified plans. The other carriers have responded by adopting a few of these changes (like no contracts).

No one wants to feel stuck with something that doesn’t make them happy. Customers want providers who make it easy to understand their plans, prices and features. Those who master their services earn their customers’ loyalty.

Store Power

Even though we can do almost everything over the Internet these days, there are still some things customers want to do in-person, like visiting their mobile carriers’ stores to purchase a phone, have something repaired or ask questions.

This is the perfect opportunity for carriers to capitalize on their in-store customer engagements and build relationships with the customers, show them they care, provide killer service and maybe even upsell them on accessories.

Most customers need to experience the mobile products to really catch their attention — just look at the success of the Apple Store and how they combine product accessibility with knowledgeable store employees. Their formula is a retention winner.

Ring For Service

We’ve all heard horror stories about being on hold with a carrier for hours — or finally speaking to a real person, only for it to be someone we can’t understand. Who has time for that? Thankfully, customers have seen a gradual improvement, and mobile market retention rates have soared.

If there’s a big phone launch, like the iPhone X, many carriers think ahead and hire additional reps just to help with the overflow of calls. Some even offer customers the option of having a rep call them back when it is their turn in line, instead of them having to sit on hold listening to the worst elevator music imaginable on loop. Brilliant and considerate.

On the most basic level, these carriers are working to limit customer wait and call times, connect them with someone who can resolve their issue (instead of transferring them around the world) and be positive throughout the conversation — whether it’s over the phone or through an online chat. Anytime they can set their service apart from the competition, the better.

The Battle For The Customer

Offering a reasonable, appealing price is especially important with mobile market retention. Don’t give consumers another reason to leave you behind. Customers want the best deal and plan for their money, so carriers need to find a way to offer deals, while still being profitable.

Throughout all of this, these price and retention wars will have one victor: customers. And we’re not seeing that trend going away anytime soon. The battle for the customer is on.

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Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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