J.D. Power and Associates Reports:
Shift to Smartphones Drives Retailers to Tailor the Sales Experience
T-Mobile Ranks Highest in Customer Satisfaction with the Wireless Retail Sales Experience
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 4 March 2010 - As more wireless customers switch to smartphones, many retailers are readjusting the wireless retail sales experience to address the specific needs of these customers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Wireless Retail Sales Satisfaction StudySM-Volume 1 released today.
Now in its seventh year, the semiannual study analyzes evaluations from customers who recently had an in-store wireless retail sales experience. Overall customer satisfaction with major wireless carrier-branded stores is based on four factors. In order of importance, they are: sales staff (49%); price and promotion (27%); store facility (14%); and display (10%).
Nearly 40 percent of customers who visited a wireless retail store in the past six months to replace or upgrade a phone from a previous carrier, switch carriers or sign up for wireless service for the first time now own smartphones. The study finds that satisfaction with the retail experience among smartphone owners averages 11 index points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than that of traditional wireless handset owners (727 vs. 716, on average), despite the fact that smartphones require additional service plan options and are more complex to operate. Smartphone owners are more satisfied than traditional handset owners in all factors, particularly with regard to the sales staff.
"The increase in smartphone sales will have a long-term impact on how carriers handle their customers' needs," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. "These phones do require retailers to adapt by constantly training sales staff to keep pace with new features and offerings, but carrying out simple tasks, such as explaining the phone's operation, provides salespeople with a great opportunity to optimize the customer's wireless experience and fosters greater loyalty to both the carrier and store."
The study finds that owners of smartphones are 27 percent more likely to visit their carrier's retail facility to inquire about a problem with their phone than are those with traditional handsets. In addition, smartphone users are 18 percent more likely to inquire about having their phone repaired, compared with owners of traditional mobile phones.
The study also finds that smartphone owners spend an average of more than one hour in the store during the sales experience, which is four minutes longer than owners of traditional phones. Smartphones require retailers to spend significantly more time carrying out tasks such as activating the phone. Sales representatives spend about one minute longer carrying out value-add tasks with smartphone owners, such as showing them how to operate the phone, than owners of traditional handsets.
"In general, wireless carriers are succeeding in adapting to the quickly evolving landscape by ensuring their sales representatives are highly knowledgeable about newer offerings such as smartphones and the high-speed data plans they utilize," said Parsons. "As consumers continue to take advantage of the latest technology, it is crucial for sales staff to be knowledgeable about all phone models and service plans available and to continue to display a high level of courtesy and honesty during the sales process to ensure satisfaction levels improve."
Among customers who are highly satisfied (scores of 8 or more points on a 10-point scale) with the knowledge of a salesperson, 92 percent say they plan to revisit the retail store, compared with just 70 percent of those who are less satisfied. Similarly, 91 percent of highly satisfied customers say they will recommend the store, while just 62 percent of less-satisfied customers say the same.
T-Mobile ranks highest in customer satisfaction among major wireless carrier-owned retail stores for a second consecutive time with a score of 723, performing particularly well with regard to quality of sales staff and price and promotions. Verizon Wireless (722) closely follows T-Mobile in the rankings.
The study also finds the following key retail wireless sales transaction patterns:
- Seventy-one percent of customers report that a sales representative explained data plan offerings during their most recent visit. In addition, more than one-third of customers report having discussed 3G coverage with a representative.
- Displaying basic courtesies, such as acting in a straightforward and honest manner, remain critical for sales representatives. Satisfaction is 204 index points higher when representatives are perceived as straightforward and honest than when they are not.
- Nearly one-half (46%) of wireless customers visit their retailer to upgrade or replace a phone from their current carrier. However, satisfaction is highest when retail store visits are to add or subtract a family member (732) or to renew or change a service plan (727).
The 2010 U.S. Wireless Retail Sales Satisfaction Study-Volume 1 is based on experiences reported by 8,000 wireless customers who completed a retail sales transaction within the past six months. The study was fielded between July and December 2009. For more information on customer satisfaction with wireless service, wireless retail sales, cell phone handsets, customer care, prepaid wireless service and business wireless service, please visit JDPower.com.