While South African users are increasingly dependent on their cell phones, they are becoming more frustrated with the service they receive from the network suppliers

South African networks currently host about 62 308 289 subscribers – more SIM cards than people – and it’s not news that South Africans are becoming increasingly dependent on their mobile phones as a primary form of communication.

“As mobile evolves, so do South Africans wants and needs, with currently about 80% of South Africans actively downloading apps, ringtones and wallpapers. Research from InMobi shows that South Africans see mobile, 53%, as a more important method of paying bills and recharging, especially when compared to a PC, 30%,” says Daryn Smith, marketing manager for InMobi, Africa.

Yet a staggering amount of subscribers are unhappy. In fact, 70% are frustrated over issues like limited data coverage, high prices, hidden charges and dropped calls.

When asked why they would switch network, the number one reason cited was for better data network coverage and better data on the same network with friends and family.

Better customer service is also high on the switch agenda for South African subscribers.

That said, only 43% of subscribers are happy to stay with their current service providers, with 46% ready to jump the fence if the right offer comes along, and 11% of South Africans actively looking to change from their current provider.

Topping the list of what attracts people from one network to another is bonus free data and talk time, with the majority of consumers wanting more free minutes.

So how do network operators keep up to make sure they can give consumers what they want, to a point? Like any good mobile strategy, innovation is the basic ingredient and reaching consumers through key channels to offer them choice is crucial to maintaining a loyal customer base. Channels such as mobile advertising play an important role in raising awareness and influencing purchase decisions, particularly when the sphere of influence is solely mobile.

“It’s really all about value for money, and how packages differentiate themselves. Offering new systems like coupons and instant discounts are good ways of boosting subscriber numbers, and bring something new to the table,” says Smith.