Ken’s Tech Tips Index: Three is UK’s best network according to poll of 7,200 consumers

May 5th, 2011

Our latest study looks at the switching intention of 7,200 consumers between February and April. Three edge out Tesco Mobile to take home the title of best performing network.

What is the Ken’s Tech Tips index?

The Ken’s Tech Tips Index is our regular study looking into how well each mobile phone network is performing in terms of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. We believe that consumers vote with their feet and that by looking at how well networks can attract and retain customers, we can determine how good a network really is.

We polled 7,205 consumers through our PAC Code Finder tool on their intention of switching network. From the responses, we determine how rapidly a network is gaining new customers and losing existing ones. The Ken’s Tech Tips “index score” is “the number of customers who join a given network for every 100 customers who leave that network”.

If a network has a high score in the Ken’s Tech Tips Index, it means they are gaining customers a lot faster than they lose them. This is perhaps a good indication that the products they provide are better value for consumers (or alternatively, it could just mean they are doing a great job with marketing their products).

How did the networks fare in this study?

This study was run across 59 days (20th February 2011 to 19th April 2011). We asked users of the PAC Code Finder tool the question “Select your current network provider and the network that you wish to move to” and received n=7,205 unique responses.

  • The best performing network is Three who are gaining 219 new customers for every 100 customers leaving their network. They beat Tesco Mobile into second place (194 new customers for every 100 customers who leave Tesco Mobile).
  • Once again, in what seems to be a recurring theme, O2 and Virgin Mobile are the worst performing networks (65 and 50 new customers respectively for every 100 customers who leave).
  • Compared to the previous study: Three, Vodafone and Virgin are performing better than before. The most drastic improvement is seen in Three’s score which rose from 148.1 in the previous study to 219.1 in this study.

The results of our study are shown below with the results from the previous study in brackets for comparison.

Rank Prev.
Rank
Network Ken’s Tech Tips Index (higher is better)
(results from previous study)
1 (2) Three 219.1 (148.1)
2 (1) Tesco Mobile 194.1 (289.8)
3 (3) T-Mobile 108.4 (129.6)
4 (5) Vodafone 102.5 (90.7)
5 (4) Orange 93.7 (94.4)
6 (7) Virgin Mobile 65.3 (57.4)
7 (6) O2 50.7 (60.8)

Table 1: Ken’s Tech Tips Index score. Scores based on 7,205 responses between 20th February 2011 to 19th April 2011.

Why are Three and T-Mobile performing so well?

  • Three have gained a massive +71.0 points since our previous study. A detailed analysis (see tables 2 & 3) shows that this is both due to Three retaining their existing customers more effectively and due to them being able to attract more new customers. We suspect that much of the high score can be attributed to all-you-can-eat data on The One Plan and the massive “Set your smartphone free” campaign that Three have been running in national media. Some of the score improvement can possibly be attributed to a changing market: our previous two studies covered the pre-Christmas and post-Christmas period which disadvantages Three (Christmas is traditionally a Pay As You Go market whereas Three’s high-end 3G smartphones tend to be associated with Pay Monthly tariffs which tend not to be purchased as gifts).
  • Tesco Mobile came in second place but lost 95.7 points compared to our previous study. This is due to Tesco attracting a lot fewer customers than before (there are no changes in customer retention). The most likely explanation for the drop in Tesco’s score is the withdrawal of some popular tariffs such as “500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB internet for £10/month”.

Why are Virgin Media and O2 performing so badly?

The poor performance of Virgin Media and O2 has been a consistent theme in our studies over the last 8 months with both networks consistently languishing at the bottom of the table. We have discussed some of the possible reasons for this in our previous study reports. In particular, we’ve found that O2 are finding it ever-more difficult to attract new customers: whereas 21.0% of respondents in September/October 2010 were planning to join O2, only 15.0% of respondents in our latest study said the same (see Table 3). With the latest round of price increases for O2 Pay Monthly, we think O2’s lacklustre selection of expensive tariffs is hurting them.

What is the meaning of the “Ken’s Tech Tips Index” score?

The Ken’s Tech Tips “index score” is “the number of customers who join a given network for every 100 customers who leave that network”. A score above 100 in the index means that network is gaining customers faster than it is losing them. Meanwhile, a score below 100 is bad news: it means the network is losing customers faster than it can replace them.

There are two ways by which a network can improve their Ken’s Tech Tips Index score. They can either attract more new customers or they can better retain their existing customers. The ways by which a network can do this are to provide better value to new and existing consumers, to offer better customer service and to improve their customer experience.

We’ve previously run this study on three occasions:

In this latest study, we consider the time period between 20th February 2011 and 19th April 2011. This is our first study looking solely at how the networks have done in 2011 whereas our previous two studies covered the pre-Christmas and post-Christmas period.

Trends: Which network are people leaving?

In the previous four studies, users of the PAC Code Finder said that they were planning to leave the following networks:

Network 20/02/11-19/04/11 20/12/10-19/02/11 20/10/10-19/12/10 05/09/10-19/10/10
ASDA Mobile 1.5% 0.7% 0.6% 0.7%
Giffgaff 0.4% 0.2% 0.2% 0.3%
O2 29.6% 26.4% 28.4% 28.1%
Orange 19.8% 19.9% 22.2% 19.8%
Tesco Mobile 3.3% 3.2% 2.9% 1.9%
Three 8.4% 10.4% 9.5% 7.8%
T-Mobile 11.6% 11.9% 11.7% 16.3%
Virgin Mobile 8.5% 10.3% 9.1% 8.7%
Vodafone 16.9% 17.0% 15.3% 16.5%

Table 2: Percentage of respondents who said they were leaving a given network. A lower % is better but these figures are only meaningful when we consider the market share of each network (e.g. networks with a larger market share are likely to see more people wanting to leave that network).

Trends: Which network are people joining?

In the previous four studies, users of the PAC Code Finder said that they were planning to join the following networks:

Network 20/02/11-19/04/11 20/12/10-19/02/11 20/10/10-19/12/10 05/09/10-19/10/10
ASDA Mobile 1.3% 1.3% 1.0% 1.1%
Giffgaff 4.8% 2.5% 1.3% 2.4%
O2 15.0% 16.1% 17.7% 21.0%
Orange 18.6% 18.8% 21.3% 18.7%
Tesco Mobile 6.4% 9.3% 9.1% 9.0%
Three 18.5% 15.4% 13.6% 14.7%
T-Mobile 12.5% 15.4% 14.5% 10.9%
Virgin Mobile 5.6% 5.9% 5.8% 6.8%
Vodafone 17.3% 15.4% 15.9% 15.4%

Table 3: Percentage of respondents who said they were joining a given network. A higher % is better here.

Notes on our study…

  • Our study measures intention to switch and not whether customers actually go ahead and make that switch. However, we expect this data to be strongly correlated.
  • Our study also fails to consider customers who may switch network but decide not to switch number (customers who don’t use a PAC Code). Our study also does not consider mobile broadband and tablet tariffs (for which a PAC Code is not required to switch).
  • This study considers people who switch network and port phone numbers between 20th February 2011 and 19th April 2011.
  • The sample size is n=7,205 users of the PAC Code Finder tool. We have only analysed data in aggregate form and no personal details are collated during this study.
  • We have excluded Asda Mobile and Giffgaff from our index due to limited data – so few people (n < 100) said they were switching from/to those networks that our results would have had incredibly large error bars. Had they been included, they would have scored 90.6 and 1090.6 respectively. Given that Giffgaff is such a new network, we would expect them to have a high score simply for the fact that there are very few existing customers who are able to leave the network.

Please contact Ken if you have any further questions on the study or to request an information pack detailing the study.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

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