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How to get a better mobile internet deal according to research

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As mobile internet becomes more and more a part of everyone’s daily lives, the stakes are getting higher and higher for service providers to retain their customers.

If you’ve ever tried to switch, you’ll know what I mean.

As long as you’ve got a decent reason why you’re not entirely happy, it’s fairly likely you can get some extra monthly data or minutes to sweeten the deal.

But knowledge is power, and if you want some real bargaining power in this situation it’ll help you to know the factors that could be stopping you from getting value for money.

Recent research published in the Journal of Service Theory and Practice looks at the reasons why some customers defect, and why others don’t. I put some questions to one of the project’s researchers, Stephanie Hui-Wen Chuah, to see what insights she could give on how to get a better mobile internet deal.

What is the main thing that stops people from switching to get a better mobile contract?

Termination fees are the main thing that stop people from switching to other mobile networks. Most people are willing to wait and switch as soon as their contracts expire. 

That sounds like a bad situation for consumers. Don’t people get resentful when a service provider basically forces them to stay in a contract because of the high cost of leaving?

Yes, I think they do. Even though disgruntled customers may stay in a contract, they may engage in harmful behaviours toward their service providers, including sabotage, revenge or negative word-or-mouth on social media.  

So does sabotage and revenge make consumers any more likely to get want they want?

Maybe yes, maybe no. At least consumers may feel better after sharing their unsatisfactory experience with their friends or the public (probably through social media, as they aware how powerful it is). They may feel even happier if they manage to influence others who are not in a contract to leave the service provider. 

What other tactics do mobile internet providers use to get people to stay?

Some service providers offer loyalty rewards programmes – for example, big discounts and special deals for travel, food and beverages, and lifestyle products for loyal customers. Some offer special treatment or privileges – for example, first class/priority service, a fast-track line, and exclusive offers for valued (profitable) customers who meet minimum spend requirements.

Surprisingly, your research shows that sometimes customers leave their service providers even though they are ‘satisfied’. Why would anyone go to all that trouble?

Consumers may be enticed by attractive promotions, or feel satiated/bored (a decline in excitement/enjoyment after repeated consumption); therefore, they desire a new and different consumption experience.

So, is there anything that consumers can do to get a better deal?

Yes. Consumers can always bargain with their service providers in order to get a better deal. However, mobile service providers should not simply offer tailored plans just to please their customers. In other words, fairness and transparency matters.

Service providers shouldn’t treat customers differently and favour certain customers over others. This could lead to unfairness perceptions because different customers are receiving a different price and promotion for a similar plan.

For example, Maxis, one of the biggest mobile telecommunication companies in Malaysia, had been secretively offering cheaper deals for customers who requested to port out. This secret and unfair practice has led to public outrage and they have lost millions of customers over the social media backlash.

Read more! This interview is based on “Why do satisfied customers defect? A closer look at the simultaneous effects of switching barriers and inducements on customer loyalty”, published in Journal of Service Theory and Practice.

Image: Stephanie Hui-Wen Chuah. Stephanie Hui-Wen Chuah is a PhD candidate in the School of Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. Her research interests focus on services management/marketing, brand management, and technology management, with a special emphasis on customer switching behaviour, customer engagement in social media, and mobile/wearable technologies.

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