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Empirix/Harris Poll Seeks To Illuminate Mobile Carrier Issues From Customer Perspective

If you happen to be a service provider, the only way to stay in favor with your customers is to keep an ear to the ground for signs of discontent and then meaningfully respond as needed. Sure, the help desk can provide some satisfaction metrics, but we all know that we tend to not hear about more problems than actually get reported. To see how customers of several mobile carriers really feel about their service experiences, the network testing big-gun Empirix commissioned a survey of almost 300 customers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany through Harris Interactive. In a pre-release briefing, I learned what Empirix found out and what the organization thinks it means for those providing voice and data to mobile customers.

Before I get to the survey itself, let me freshen up what you may know about Empirix. Back in the day, before mobility became an integral part of our consciousness, Empirix was thick in the game of testing IP networks and associated services. Its flagship Hammer test platform was, and continues to be, used in forecasting what a user experience will be on a given network, and it has some pretty big customers. Until recently, that was where my own knowledge of Empirix stopped. As I have learned of late, no grass has grown under Empirix's feet: It is now deep into the cable provider and mobile operator spaces as well, and hence the commissioning of this survey. As for Harris Interactive, it has decades of experience in measuring business effectiveness and customer satisfaction.

So back to picking the brains of a few thousand customers for how they feel about their carriers. I spent some time with Empirix's Bob Hockman, director of product management, who explained that the survey is all about identifying who smartphone users blame when they perceive service problems. The survey details what specific issues users identify as pain points in each country, from texting to Internet searching to gaming and applications. It also puts metrics on how often frustration occurs in almost a dozen categories that break out specific smartphone activities, and to what degree users blame their providers for their angst.

The ultimate goal? To educate carriers on what they may not know through their own data gathering and, without coming out and saying it, how Empirix can be leveraged to improve the carriers' standings with their customer bases.

Hockman points out that as the mobile space grows, customers can show their dissatisfaction by changing carriers. Customer churn is certainly an effect to be minimized by anyone's game plan, and Empirix does some pretty sophisticated running analysis of a carrier's control and user planes to pinpoint specific trouble areas that typical "green light/red light" network monitoring might miss. It is interesting to see what's going on behind the curtain of mobile networks, and Empirix has been a gracious tour guide.

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