Smartphone Problems Increasingly Frustrate Customers, Cause Churn

Cellebrite, a developer and provider of mobile diagnostics solutions, and independent market analysis Ovum, announced the results of a global study and found that within the last year, seven in 10 consumers had experienced an issue or malfunction with their smartphone and 12 percent of those who looked to their mobile operator for help, would not return to that operator to purchase their next device based on their customer service experience. Ovum reached its findings based on a survey of more than 4,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., China and Germany, and in-depth interviews with executives in six mobile operators in these markets.

Also of concern for operators, software-related problems—which are outside operators' control—have increased from 10 percent to 40 percent of the proportion of total faults. No Trouble Found (NTF) claims, which fail to identify the actual problem, account typically for one-third of all handsets that are sent for repair at a cost to operators that in some cases reaches $300 per unit.

"The findings from this study reveal the extent of the challenge facing mobile operators: a sizable percentage of consumers are growing frustrated with their mobile service providers after experiencing problems that are completely outside of the operators' control," said Angel Dobardziev and Michael Philpott, co-authors of the report, in a statement. "While hardware and operating system faults have stabilized, software-related or 'soft' faults, caused by such issues as malware-laden and faulty applications, have increased four-fold, leading to increased customer service costs and affecting customer satisfaction."

The Ovum study's findings highlighted the importance of an integrated, multichannel approach that addresses "soft" issues quickly and closer to the customer. Whether operators' policies are to provide a loaner device or to furnish a permanent replacement, these are costly options for the operator and consume resources on the back-end. Further, the study cited three components of the technical service function that will mitigate costs and maintain customer satisfaction are self-help applications, remote diagnostic tools and advanced in-store technical support capabilities.

Additional highlights from the study include:

  • Mobile service providers face a range of direct and indirect costs of not being able to identify and address customer device malfunction issues, regardless of whether the operator is responsible for the actual fault.
  • Sixty eight percent of consumer respondents had experienced an issue or malfunction with their mobile device in the past 12 months.
  • Approximately one-third of respondents suffering from battery and applications-related malfunctions claimed they first turned to their mobile operator or retailer for help.
  • One out of every four calls to operators' customer care centers involves trouble with a phone.
  • Thirty-four percent of consumers who responded that had experienced a software virus, and 39 percent that had experienced software crashing, stated that it had rendered their device unusable.
  • Customer service is a top three reason for churn, cited by 25 percent of users that plan to change providers.
  • Fourteen percent of respondents stated that, based on the operators' inability to fix their problem quickly and satisfactorily, they would look to purchase their next handset from a different provider.
  • The number of consumers stating they would purchase their next handset from a different provider, due to unsatisfactory technical support, increased to 18 percent for respondents with an applications-related fault.
  • Thirty seven percent of consumer respondents indicated that they suffered a malfunction after their device warranty period was over and of those respondents, 33 percent resolved to put up with the issue that arose when their device was out of warranty.
  • No Trouble Found (NTF) claims—no faults found with warrantied hardware or software — typically account for 30 percent of all handsets sent for repair. NTFs have a direct cost to the operator in terms of administrative services charges and in some cases handset loan and replacement stock, as well as an indirect cost in terms of customers frustrated by a lack of resolution.
  • Ill-equipped to identify the true source of problems, technical support staff often resort to brute force resolutions – flashing the phone software or resetting the device to factory conditions.  While offering temporary relief, problems resurface when consumers, unaware of what caused the original problem, reintroduce troubled apps or suboptimal configuration settings.