Wireless Tiered Plans Affecting Customer Satisfaction

Angry-Unhappy-Customer-AMore and more wireless customers are moving (or being moved) to tiered service plans that regulate data and Internet access, and it’s having an effect on their perceptions of customer service from their carriers. 

According to a new study from J.D. Power and Associates, customers who have the tiered service plans are considerably less satisfied with their carrier’s customer service than those with unlimited data plans. Overall satisfaction among full-service (as opposed to prepaid) customers who have tiered plans was 748 (on a 1,000-point scale), while those who had unlimited data plans had average index scores of 775. 

“Back in 2011, it was kind of the first salvo of carriers changing how they charge for services, particularly [linking] data and the tiered plans,” Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power, tells Marketing Daily. “There is some impact from an experience standpoint. [Customers are] less pleased in terms of the experiences in terms of what they were using before and what they’re using now.” 

The lower satisfaction levels may be attributable to a variety of factors. Customers on the tiered service plans call their carrier more often than those on unlimited plans. They also spend more than an average of one minute more on hold waiting to speak with a customer service representative and have a lower incidence of having their call resolved in a timely manner. Much of that irresolution comes from the complexity of the tiered service plans and customer belief that they are being charged in ways they had not expected. 

"What is important to understand is that with any major service change, the need for simplicity is paramount,” Parsons says. “Additional investment is also needed in support services to not only handle the increase in customer interactions, but also to provide service representatives with the necessary training and information across all contact channels in order to offer a timely and superior service experience."

At the same time, the customer satisfaction ratings, which overall were about average compared to scores from a previous report six months ago, should level off as more customers get used to the service plans and can better gauge how they will be charged. 

“As more customers get on to these new tiered plans, they’ll grow used to it and the bills,” Parsons says. “But in these early stages now, we’re finding an adjustment period.”

Among full-service providers, Verizon Wireless ranked highest for customer care with a score of 771. Sprint Nextel was second with a score of 764, while AT&T and T-Mobile had scores of 756 and 722, respectively. Among non-contract/prepaid carriers, Virgin Mobile had the highest ranking, with an index score of 750. Tracfone, Straight Talk and Metro PCS had scores of 718, 705 and 702, respectively -- all higher than the category average of 701. Boost Mobile, Net 10 and Cricket all had scores below the average (698, 677 and 673, respectively).

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