Weighing In On Wireless
Small businesses with fewer than 100 employees are less satisfied with their wireless carriers than large and medium enterprises, with T-Mobile and Verizon leading in overall customer satisfaction, according to a new report. J.D. Power and Associates' "Business Wireless Satisfaction Study" is a comprehensive view of wireless voice-and-data services based on customer ratings from 1,500 U.S. businesses in February 2005.
In descending order of percent weighting, the study considered eight key service areas: call quality (18); sales representatives/account executives (14); customer service (14); billing (12); offerings and promotions (11); performance and reliability (11); company image (11); and cost of service (9). The results show T-Mobile as the best performer, with 744 points out of a possible 1,000, thus earning it the J.D. Power and Associates award for highest customer satisfaction with business wireless service. Verizon Wireless is a close second, with 737. Cingular, Sprint PCS, and Nextel rank below the industry average of 717, with scores of 711, 709, and 704, respectively. The rest of the wireless voice/data carriers rated were smaller regional operations and were ranked as a group.
The report notes that T-Mobile performed well in all categories, especially sales representatives/account executives, billing, offerings and promotions, cost of service, and customer service. Verizon's areas of expertise were call quality, performance/reliability, and company image.
Despite beating the industry average, these rankings might not be anything to crow about. According to Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services for J.D. Power and Associates, "The industry average for wireless carriers is lower than other industries like healthcare and automotive." Cross-industry rankings in 2004 showed the overall average among fields covered by J.D. Power to be 759, with telecom ranking ninth out of 12, earning just 712 of 1,000 possible points. "Wireless is a subset of telecom, and the new 2005 B2B wireless report is more or less at the telecom category average," Parsons says. Tires, automotive, and electronics led all ranked industries with scores of 802, 798, and 790, respectively.
Parsons indicates that the study does not provide specific recommendations for how carriers can improve service, but he says it "gives providers a benchmark. The eight key factors are made up of 63 separate attributes, so individual companies can see not only how they performed versus the rest of the wireless industry, but how they did versus the best in class."
One noteworthy finding concerns customer service contacts. Of the 70 percent of surveyed businesses that contacted their provider's customer service department within the past year, 64 percent reported first-contact problem or inquiry resolution; 89 percent reported receiving a solution "in a timely manner."
Business wireless usage patterns also were noted. The breakdown of individual services shows that nearly 90 percent of businesses surveyed subscribe to a voice plan, while just 54 percent subscribe to data services (email, text messaging, and wireless Web browsing). Direct radio push-to-talk services are next, with 36 percent of survey participants subscribed. Other service plans tracked in the study include international roaming access (17), wireless PC modem access (15), and PC card broadband packet services, at 5 percent of the subscribed base.
"Having information on trending will open up a whole world of possibilities in our [future] reporting," Parsons says. "Once we gather more data and track it against sales and market share, we'll have a much more complete picture of wireless industry performance. For now, we have to wait and see."
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