Study: Android handset returns costing operators $2B a year

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Operators are incurring huge and unexpected costs due the high return rate of Android-based devices, according to a comprehensive study conducted by the firm Wireless Dat Service.

WDS said that operators are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly growing Android ecosystem, and efforts to evolve their customer support strategies is costing them as much as $2 billion (€1.45 billion) a year. WDS focuses on improving the end-customer experience by offering managed services to mobile operators, handset manufactures and service providers, and its clients include Vodafone, Orange and Three.

The WDS study, which involved the analysis of over 600,000 technical support calls that were handled by its teams around the world in the last 12 months, blamed Android fragmentation as causing a higher than average hardware failure on devices using the platform.

The study claims that 14 per cent of technical support calls on Android relate to hardware, versus 11 per cent for Microsoft's Windows Phone, 7 per cent for Apple's iOS and 6 per cent for Research In Motion's BlackBerry.

However, Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of marketing at WDS, was keen to stress that its analysis did not find any inherent fault with the Android platform. "Its openness has enabled the ecosystem to grow to a phenomenal size, at a phenomenal rate, and it's this success that is proving challenging," he said in a statement.

The report pointed towards the introduction of low-cost hardware, a variety of software customisations and the process for delivering software updates to consumers as all resulting in operators' retail operations and their return and repairs processes being stretched.

"Many operators are treating Android as a standard implementation with a consistent customer experience," Deluca-Smith said. "Given its nature, this of course isn't the case. The Android customer experience differs enormously between devices and this means that the way in which Android devices are retailed and supported must consider factors such as the hardware build and quality of components."

WDS recommends that operators take the following action to cut the customer service costs associated with Android devices:

  • Ramp-up device testing and the on-boarding processes when ranging Android products to minimise risk of hardware failure.
  • Analyse a products likelihood for a hardware failure prior to launch to ensure customer support is ready with accurate support documentation and returns procedure.
  • Educate customers from the start of the sales process to better manage expectation of experience, to reduce technical support calls.

For more:
- see this WDS press release
- see this WDS whitepaper (reg. req.)

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