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SA consumers happy with their cell phones

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South Africans appear to be very satisfied with their mobile handsets, according to the latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index. 

More than 2 105 consumers were included in an independent survey which gave the brands an overall score of 77.2 out of 100. The data was collected between March and May 2015.

Apple, Nokia and Samsung set the benchmark with scores of 82.7, 78.9 and 78.8 respectively, with Nokia and Samsung’s scores very close to one another. Blackberry scored below par at 70.6, despite improving its scores since last year.

Professor Adré Schreuder, founder of SAcsi and CEO of Consulta, says Blackberry’s score improvement could be due to the fact that only its most loyal customers remain. He says that customers’ experiences of product quality have improved across all the brands since the last index.

Customers expect more of mobile handsets than they are getting, with the exception of Nokia and Samsung, which are exceeding their customers’ expectations in terms of meeting their needs.

“Apple customers have high expectations but report that the brand falls just short of their expectations in terms of reliability. In fact, customer expectations of Apple iPhones are the highest we’ve encountered across various brands and industries at 88 out of 100. Customers are happy with many aspects of iPhone’s product quality and there is no doubt that Apple’s brand appeal is significant,” he says.

The dubious honour of the highest percentage of complaints goes to Blackberry, which Prof Schreuder says is made all the more interesting by the fact that the brand has scored second-highest in terms of complaints handling.

All the brands reported higher levels of complaints, with the exception of Samsung, which had 10% fewer complaints than last year, but did not score well in its handling of complaints, dropping by a dramatic 17.5 on its previous score.  “This could be related to the fact that in the South African context, consumers don’t interact directly with the manufacturers,” explains Prof Schreuder.

Blackberry was recently named in a Phonefinder survey as the most popular manufacturer in terms of sales, outselling the Galaxy S5 and Apple’s latest iPhone. Despite intense marketing from rivals, Blackberry continues to hold its own, which may have something to do with its value proposition. “When it was launched, Blackberry gained an initial advantage due to its low data costs,” says Prof Schreuder.

Nokia customers report the highest value for money scores; quality for the price paid is also highly rated. “Nokia’s score is 2.3 points higher than the next challenger. This is clearly the value segment in which Nokia is performing well,” he adds.

Net Promoter Scores indicate the likelihood of customers to recommend a particular brand. Apple has the highest NPS, with 60% of customers likely to recommend the brand. “With every new handset release, the marketing is intense and this raises expectations. As customers get more familiar with the technology, they also expect more from their handsets,” says Prof Schreuder.

The NPS scores show that Blackberry customers are least likely to recommend the brand. “This may be related to negative perceptions of Blackberry over the past couple of years and the impression that it is a sinking ship,” he says.

Three-year trends show that mobile handsets experienced a dip in performance on various customer satisfaction measures in 2014 as compared to 2013 and 2015. With regards to meeting customers’ expectations, Samsung is the only brand that showed a marked increase from 79.3 out of 100 in 2013 and 2014, to 82 out of 100 in 2015.

The number of complaints from customers has decreased slightly since 2013. Apple is the only mobile handset that shows a remarkable upward trend in the proportion of complaints since 2013, but the upside is that these complaints were seen to be handled well.

Apple remains the leader amongst competitors with regard to loyalty and shows an upward trend from 77.6  in 2013 to 80.6 in 2015. When it comes to the proportion of customers who will recommend mobile handsets to others, Apple continues to lead with its distinct upward trend from 77.5 in 2013 to 77.8 in 2014 and 80.6 in 2015. Samsung comes second, with recommendations rising from 73.6 (2013) to 75.1 (2014) and 76.2 (2015).

The Net Promoter Score for Nokia is on a clear downward spiral at 48%, 41% and 40.9% since 2013.  Samsung, on the other hand, is on an upward trajectory from 43% in 2013, 47% in 2014 and 47.4% in 2015.

Relative to the international ACSI, the UK is the international benchmark with a score of 79 out of 100 followed closely by US (78). Customer satisfaction with South Africa’s mobile handsets industry ranks third internationally, with other scores at UK (79), US (78), Turkey (76), South Korea (73) and Brazil (60).