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As network quality improves, mobile subscribers globally are placing more importance on customer service and value when choosing an operator, Nokia's 2016 Acquisition and Retention study shows.

The latest Nokia study, released today, is a mobile industry barometer for consumer behavior. It finds five factors that have changed notably in the last two years.

1. Global mobile subscribers, particularly in mature markets, want more transparency when it comes to contract terms, rate structures and data fees. While price is still the most important factor when it comes to customer acquisition and retention, the study shows calling plans and rate structures are 14 percent more important to respondents than they were in 2014. The report finds customers, confused by different packages, will often choose easy-to-understand terms and conditions over price.
2. Respondents say customer care has 60% more impact on their loyalty than it did in 2014. This is the biggest change in our study. Respondents say better general services, self-service capabilities and effective complaint handling are increasingly important to them. Customer care is now basically on par with network quality as a deciding factor to stay with a mobile provider.
3. Networks are getting better in mature markets, but there is work to do in transition markets. Consumers in mature markets report a 13 percentage-point improvement in their satisfaction with Internet connection quality vs 2014, while transition markets report a slight decline.
4. Mobile security is a growing issue: 90% of customers in mature markets and 94% in transition markets worry about mobile security. Globally, 47% of respondents would change operators if they suffered a security breach - that's a 7-percentage-point increase from 2014.
5. Consumer expectations about IoT are growing. 56% of respondents in mature markets and 82% in transition markets would like to control at least one device via their mobile phone or tablet.

Bhaskar Gorti, Applications & Analytics president at Nokia, said: "We can see the marketing battles to acquire mobile subscribers are fierce. What we don't see as well is the work operators do every day to retain customers. Our study shows how important that work is - and also how challenging it is as customers, attached to their phones, demand higher levels of service."

The study also reveals notable trends in the areas of valued-added services, connected devices, voice and messaging, bundled services and more. For example:

  • The importance of a mobile provider's service and device portfolio has a 10% impact on customer acquisition, up from 6% in 2014.
  • 4G services could play a bigger role in customer acquisition and retention. Respondents using 4G are 38% more likely to be satisfied with their data speed and 24% more likely to be satisfied with data consistency than earlier-generation technology. Yet in the past year, only 38% of respondents signed up for 4G. Almost a third of the respondents do not know if their operator offers the technology.
  • The study reports different uses of applications in mature and transition markets: 87% of consumers in transition markets use messaging applications compared to 46% in mature markets.
  • 38% of respondents say they would be willing to receive advertisements on their mobile devices in exchange for rewards.
  • 68% of respondents say they would leave an operator over network quality issues. In particular, the speed and consistency of Internet connection matters more for keeping customers loyal than either voice quality or network coverage.
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