iPhone After the Sales Honeymoon

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Paul Greenberg has an interesting post on the launch of the iPhone. He suggests that the customer experience is a complex, multi-faceted thing driven by customers’ changing needs, wants and requirements. Who can argue with that?

The iPhone has had a great launch, but is that enough to guarantee long-term satisfaction, repurchase and recommendation? Maybe not.

The real success driver in mobile telecoms is not the handset buying experience but the everyday handset and network usage experience. Apple has been lucky so far in that it has been able to control a large part of the handset buying eyperience through its own shops. They have not been so lucky with AT&T shops nor with activation through AT&T, although some of that may be due to the huge volume of eager new converts to the iPhone and to AT&T.

JD Power’s legendary customer satisfaction surveys look at both handset and network operator satisfaction. According to JD Power, the most important satisfaction drivers for the handset are physical design (with 24%), operation (22%), features (20%), handset durability (19%) and battery function (15%). It is almost certain that Motorola, Sanyo and Samsung will respond with new handsets that look and feel like the iPhone but are much more feature-rich. And cheaper. We will have to see how well the iPhone holds-up over time.

Things are even worse in the network operator department. According to JD Power, the most important satisfaction drivers for the network operator are call performance and reliability (with 32%), brand image (17%), cost of service (14%), service plan options (14%), billing (12%) and customer service (11%). AT&T performed the worst overall in network call quality. And they didn’t do much better in wireless service or post-sale customer service. Over half of all wireless customers typically contact their network operator for customer service each year. That’s a lot of touchpoints to spoil the iPhone experience. And I am not sure what Apple are going to do when customers with network or billing problems start appearing in their retail shops to get service, as 25% of mobile customers typically do.

All in all, the iPhone has had a great start. But it remains to be seen whether the iPhone itself will continue to delight as it has and whether AT&T is up to the task of delivering an Apple-quality usage experience over the entire length of customers’ two year contracts. Ultimately, this is what will drive customers’ long-term satisfaction, repurchase and recommendation, not the sales experience in the dim and distant past.

What do you think?

Is Apple on a roll with the iPhone? Or is AT&T its weakest experiential link?

Post a response and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

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