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Small/midsize business customers are more satisfied overall with their wireless services, compared with home-based business customers, primarily due to cost differences, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Business Wireless Satisfaction Study.

Now in its sixth year, the study from J.D. Power measures the overall satisfaction of home-based business customers (companies with between one and five employees, and based in a residence) and small/midsize business customers (companies with between two and 499 employees) with their wireless voice and data services across six key factors. In order of importance, they are: performance and reliability (23 percent); sales representatives/account executives (21 percent); billing (17 percent); cost of service (14 percent); offerings and promotions (13 percent); and customer service (11 percent).

Satisfaction among small/midsize business customers averages 682 on a 1,000-point scale, compared with 667 among customers in the home-based business customer segment. The gap in overall satisfaction between the two business segments is mainly driven by the cost of service and offerings and promotions factors, where the satisfaction performance gap is nearly twice as high as that for overall satisfaction (32 points and 27 points, vs. 15 points).

"Clearly, the revenue potential among larger businesses dictates that wireless service providers are more aggressive in offering pricing discounts through sales promotions, such as volume-tiered pricing based on the number of employees participating," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services for J.D. Power and Associates. "This could also include offering bundled products and services as a way to promote cost savings, given that from both revenue and customer loyalty perspectives, providers offering multiple services to meet client communication needs can almost immediately experience a positive financial impact."

Another factor that influences satisfaction performance is having a single point of contact for sales and service issues. Small/midsize businesses are more likely to have a dedicated sales representative to deal with sales and customer service issues, which tends to lead to higher levels of overall customer satisfaction. On average, 47 percent of the small/midsize enterprises have a dedicated single point of contact, compared with only 21 percent of home-based businesses.

"Having a single point of contact for sales and service allows a business to quickly resolve issues, which undoubtedly leads to a more positive customer experience, and therefore, higher satisfaction," said Parsons. "Smaller businesses that don't have a dedicated sales representative may have to spend more time finding the right person help resolve their issues, which, understandably, can be frustrating."

In the home-based business segment, T-Mobile ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction and performs particularly well in five of six factors: sales representatives/account executives; billing; cost of service; offerings/promotions; and customer service. Verizon Wireless follows T-Mobile in the home-based business segment, performing well in performance and reliability; sales representatives/account executives; offerings and promotions; and customer service. Alltel also ranks above the segment average and performs well in the performance and reliability and cost of service factors.

“Both T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have differentiated themselves from the competition specifically by exceeding customer expectations in key service areas such as efficient customer service processes and strong network performance and reliability," said Parsons. "Particularly among small and midsize businesses, customer service and network-related issues such as call quality and performance reliability are important elements that impact the daily decision-making process. Both T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless appear to be meeting   these needs in an effective manner."

The study also finds the following key business wireless usage patterns:

*    The average monthly cost for wireless voice and data services among home office   customers is $140, a decrease of more than $30 per month, compared with 2009. Small/midsize companies experienced an even bigger drop, as the average amount spent fell $190 compared with 2009 ($930 vs. $1,120 per month).
*    Overall, 41 percent of business decision-makers report currently subscribing to mobile broadband service. The incidence is higher among small/midsize businesses, compared with home-based businesses (47 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively).
*    Forty-nine percent of business wireless customers say they contacted a customer service representative with a question or problem within the past six months. Among these customers, 21 percent report contacting their provider due to changes in service plans, while 13 percent say they had issues with phone equipment malfunctions or needed replacements.

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