Apple leads the way in 2017 SAcsi for mobile handsets

Huawei makes a strong push up the rankings

The latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for Mobile Handsets, conducted by Consulta, indicates that local mobile handset users are most satisfied with Apple iPhone, despite the brand’s high prices. With an overall SAcsi score of 84, Apple is well above the industry average of 79.7 and 0.5 points ahead of its 2016 score of 83.5.

Huawei ranks second with a 4.1 point jump to 81.3, followed by Samsung, which scored 80.4 (up 0.9 points since 2016). Other handset manufacturers – including the likes of Sony, Blackberry and LG among others – saw an overall decline in customer satisfaction to 75.1 in 2017, down from 77.5 in 2016 and 82.4 in 2015. There were not adequate samples for brands in the “other” category to be individually detailed.

SAcsi_Mobile Handsets_graphic

Now in its fifth year, the SAcsi for Mobile Handsets offers impartial insights into the South African mobile handset industry by measuring the customer’s overall satisfaction. This satisfaction score is based on brands exceeding or falling short of customer expectations and the respondents’ idea of the ideal product to achieve an overall result out of 100. The measurement also includes, amongst other measures, Customer Expectations Index, Perceived Quality Index and a Perceived Value Index. The sample included 1,405 mobile phone users who were randomly selected to participate in the 2017 survey.

“Although Apple and Samsung have maintained their dominance in the minds of their customers, Huawei has made strong inroads to grow its market share since last year,” says Consulta CEO, Professor Adré Schreuder. “While the Chinese brand offers a high-quality smart phone at a more affordable price, it’s moved beyond the focus on display and camera quality to position itself as a pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI) capability.”

Apple maintained its position with the highest perceived quality score of 89.3 (up from 88.7 in 2016), followed by Huawei with 85.8 (up from 80.4). Samsung’s perceived quality score remained stable at 83.6, while the overall industry’s perceived quality increased from 82.7 to 83.8.

The collective perceived quality score for rest of the industry, apart from the three main brands, was below par at 80.4, which is lower than their collective 2016 score of 80.5 and 2015 score of 85.3.

“Apple’s brand perception across a variety of linked devices such as tablets, laptops and watches has contributed to customers viewing it as a high-quality brand that meets their needs in a reliable way. However, Huawei is looking to firmly establish its reputation as a premium product as it increases its service and maintenance footprint in South Africa,” says Schreuder.

Overall industry customer loyalty has increased from 71.6% in 2015 to 72.3% in the 2017 survey, after dropping to 70.2% in 2016. However, in that same period, Apple experienced a decline from its 2015 high of 80.9%, to 76.1 in 2016 and 77.9% in 2017. While Apple customers remain the most loyal, the survey revealed that their biggest complaints were about the time taken to download software updates, data usage and service quality (repairs).

Samsung is marginally down from its 2015 loyalty score of 75.1%, although its score is up from 73.7% in 2016 to 74.1% in 2017.

Customer loyalty to Huawei, which was first measured in 2016, has jumped from 65.6% to 73.4% in 2017. The loyalty level in the rest of the industry has dropped drastically from 75.2% in 2015 to 67.2% in 2016 and 64.4% in 2017, largely due to the demise of Blackberry, which historically held significant market share in South Africa.

“Handset manufacturers face constant pressure to offer customers more value for less cost. With new models of premium handsets likely to be more expensive than models already in market, brands will need to be careful about trying to be all things to everyone,” says Schreuder. “Apple, for instance, offers more affordable devices like the iPhone 5S for R6,999, with its flagship iPhone 7S costing close on R16,500. Samsung has also followed this strategy of playing across segments, offering phones from as little as R999 right up to R15,300, but the risk is an inconsistency in brand experience.”

A popular metric for measuring a brand’s performance is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures the likelihood that customers will recommend a brand to their family and friends (promoters) compared to customers who would actively discourage a relationship with the brand (detractors).

Apple achieved the highest NPS of 55%, which is 11.7% higher than the industry average of 43.3%. Huawei scored the next highest NPS of 49%, followed by Samsung on 45%. The rest of the industry scored a collective NPS of a low 29%.

“While the overall percentage of complaints has decreased from the previous measurement, the problems reported shifted from being mainly about a handset’s battery life, to being about data usage and issues with software updates,” concludes Schreuder. “Data usage complaints include data disappearing quickly or making use of out-of-bundle rates resulting in higher charges. Given that these issues arise out of network providers’ actions rather than out of device quality, the research suggests that network providers should be addressing these concerns, rather than the handset manufacturers.”

SAcis_Mobile handsets_Summary table