The Glasgow Siri Effect and Apple Consumer Contract and Privacy Loyalty
Few people jump to the conclusion that the Apple iPhone is an item in need of a lot of serious research study in regards to customer satisfaction. The most recent variation, the 4S, was released not long ago with a great deal of interest and appeal, which ultimately generated some of the best sales figures for any telephone product of its type (Park, 2011). In addition, Apple has received a good deal of industry credit across the UK for being one of the reasons that some of the region's telecom companies have been revitalized, giving customers more choices and creating some degree of customer loyalty to the Apple brand (Wakefield, 2011).
Unfortunately for the company, however, the realities of the market for high-tech communications are often more fleeting. Customers in the UK are beginning to display more indications of their preference to "churn" or leave their agreements with their suppliers if they are not getting treated in accordance with their expectations (Khalatyan, 2010). As the industry settles in to its promotional and expansion strategies, it is becoming clear that quality and responsive customer service and the promises of doing what was promised (including offering good service coverage) has begun to demonstrate the "contract loyalty" is likely more important to consumers that the details of most handset or service providers. As one company summarized it, consumers seem more interested in running away from problems more than running toward good services -- something that in general still continues to leave Apple in a good position (Nokia Siemens, 2009).
In Glasgow, however, an unexpected event occurred nearly simultaneously with the release of the iPhone 4S that has the ability to bring some of these core loyalty and customer satisfaction issues to the forefront. Apple may well suffer from an impact of the Glasgow "Siri Effect," which refers to the fact that its favored Siri voice recognition software system was highly unsuccessful at clearly recognizing the Glaswegian dialect (Park, 2011). Though Apple said that it did in fact take the language into consideration when developing the product, it acknowledges that in practice the software did not live up to those expectations. As TheNationalStudent.com put it, the "Super Smart Phone" was a disappointment to consumers in this region, starting that product's introduction off with a poor taste of the Apple appeal (Park, 2011). They also noted that this problem almost immediately drew attention to other challenges. Park reported that Glasgow was one of the regions of the UK were some 17% of all complaints against Apple originated, followed closely by similar concerns from the Liverpool area, which is also known for its accents -- issues that have subsequently been compounded in the media by other studies showing just how poorly some telecom businesses have been faring across the UK in regards to living up to their contractual commitments.
The purpose of this study is to test the impact of this "Siri Effect" in regards to two factors: whether or not it is having an influence on Apple iPhone user's opinions about their "contract loyalty" and whether or not these types of issues make users more concerned about how Apple deals with the information they collect about their users. If what is said in the literature is correct, consumers in areas that experience these kinds of concerns might be more inclined to look more seriously at changing their loyalties or "churing" away from particular service providers (Ahn et al., 2006). Doing so costs the companies a good deal of money and might well become more important as Apple begins to personalize its reach to other nations where languages other than Standard English prevail (Slivka, 2012). The study's results will suggests whether incidents like the Siri Effect are strong enough to impact these considerations or whether brand appeal alone might be enough to off-set even these types of serious corporate challenges related to the loyalty of the customers.
The popular media's response to the Siri Effect is important because it may well set the trend for what consumers in selected markets think as new Apple products are introduced. What TheNationalStudent.com reported could become an indicator of what could happen as customers turn a closer eye toward what Apple really does in practice. Why this is important is because it follows on the heels of other news reports that had already begun to question whether UK consumers were getting what was promised to them from the telecom sector. In 2011, the BBC undertook its own survey of how well the telecom sector as a whole was living up to its promises across the UK (BBC Mobile, 2011). What they found was that there were serious shortcomings in many areas where "not-zones" (poor coverage or connectivity issues) prevailed (Wakefield, 2011). These types of findings seemed to mirror the findings of some reputable high-tech company assessments that basically found that "With only 20% of consumers in Europe rating their online experiences as excellent, consumers are keen for operators to improve customer service online" (Oracle, 2011, pp. 5).
Oracle's overall findings on European customer attitudes toward their mobile carriers had specific implications for Apple as well as the broader UK market. They also found, for example, that in some national markets, such as in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, there are noticeable levels of "handset loyalty" In the UK specifically as many as 45% of customers said that they would switch carriers to keep the handsets that they wanted (Oracle, 2011, pp 5-6). But even that may have been influenced by the fact that at that time Orange was the primary Apple carrier (Ofcom, 2010). But other factors were still in play as well. When asked about the types of care and support services that their providers offered, respondents said that they were most likely to look for their own Internet forms of assistance when problems arose, seeking out their own levels of help as best that they could (Nokia Seimens, 2009). This nebulous customer commitment has also been recognized elsewhere, suggesting that consumers are more interested in what care they get not necessarily that they have any loyalty to a particular company. Customized service is also critical (Shapely, 2009). This fact can also be seen in a 2010 YouGov self-survey in regards to the topic of customer satisfaction with the iPhone performances of the Orange service provider -- the one company at the time that was offering Apple. Unfortunately for that company, the results were not positive. Some 15% of the 1800 respondents said they were planning on moving. 60% thought that they could get better service elsewhere (YouGov, 2010). But whether they would actually leave or not was a different question, for the fact is that even if other factors to help determine customer loyalty, "contract loyalty," or the perception of consumers getting what they paid for prevails (Kuusik, 2007). And it may not always be true that some as good can be found elsewhere. The love of a company simply doesn't always prevail (eGain, 2010).
Studies on the psychology of customer loyalty suggest that what is most important is the way in which companies respond quickly and with an in-depth, personal sense of commitment to solving the problem (Winch, 2011). TelecomsEurope addresses this consideration recently when it said,
Customers will always prefer an operator that offers a transparent, consistent relationship with a high degree of personalization and control. Without the ability to manage access to services, content and applications at ever-finer levels of detail, customers face the risk of experiencing the mobile data equivalent of electricity brownouts or suddenly receiving unexpectedly huge bills for content downloads (Sharpley, 2009).
While some of these concerns are related to new and emerging markets, they still present important considerations for the many companies that are trying to sustain their position in the UK's mature market (John, 2011). In these types of settings where the infrastructure exists, customers who have already experienced something they like may be less willing to settle for less. Their true commitment is thus geared more toward moving away from bad experiences and toward good overall services. "Traditional companies have typically conducted consumer research, characterized customer satisfaction, determined how services are used, identified explicit service-related needs, and then focused on developing service features that meet those needs. But they have not made an effort to uncover the full range of their customers' unspoken needs and unmet desires" (Young et al., 2007, p 4035). The Siri Effect could well be one of the types of "unspoken needs and unmet desires" that consumers may well be using to make their judgments in the future.
As recently as 2001, The Times reported some three-quarters of businesses that operated on the Internet knew little or nothing about their customers (Lee-Kelley, 2003). Their interest instead was geared toward capturing as many customers as they could under the assumption that the…