Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Mobile user feedback

This week’s post from Mobile Industry Review.

Recently I asked readers for their comments on what they think about the mobile service they receive and what they’d like to change. I received some interesting feedback and would like to thank everyone who responded.

There’s no doubt that mobiles have changed peoples’ lives and we all take increased contactability as a fact of life now. However whilst the concept of mobile contact is hugely popular, what about the reality of the services on offer from the operators?

Nor surprisingly, a recurrent theme was tariffs. There’s a strong perception among many people that it’s too difficult to find the right tariff. Either you end up with loads of minutes and SMS left unused at the end of the month or you don’t have enough in your bundle and end up being charged extortionate rates for your additional usage. This leaves users feeling they’re not getting real value for money from their operator. Plus lots of usage is excluded from tariff bundles – in the UK the usual 08 and some 07 numbers plus roaming calls for most users. My suggestion that the other operators should emulate 3 Like Home was certainly a popular one! Whilst people feel the operators could be more customer focused in designing their tariffs, there’s also support for regulation to create a fairer approach to charging, for example in the handling of calls that are currently charged as extra.

The tariff concerns form part of an overall impression that the operators have too much market power and therefore don’t need to respond to customer concerns about pricing or availability of handset functionality, like the ability to make VoIP calls. Is this operator power or a ‘perfect market’ in operation?

Whilst there is a degree of confusion about the profusion of mobile handsets on the market, users welcome the advance of technology and the additional functionality it brings to handsets. More intelligent market segmentation to help customers choose the right handset would help here.

There’s still a lot of support for subsidised handsets because of the perception that it gives you a new handset every 12 or 18 months at no or little charge. Most users seem to overlook the fact that these subsidised handsets are keeping tariffs artificially high. Although handset subsidies have driven customer numbers they have also allowed the operators to lock in customers via long contracts and SIM locking and stifled competition. So long as users are hooked on a dependency culture of a free handset every year there seems little incentive for the market to change. Those of us who source SIM free handsets are still a tiny minority.

Network coverage was seen as less of an issue than I expected (apart from by Annie, my Australian reader!), with most users seeing the networks as broadly similar. People who have used several networks tend to be more aware of the differences between them.

To summarise the feedback for the operators in four words – still work to do!

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