Which Canadian wireless carrier is best? JD Power knows. Hint: It’s none of the Big Three

JD Power and Associated unveiled its 2011 Canadian Wireless Customer Satisfaction report today. 

In it are some obvious facts: first, average monthly wireless charges increased from 2009. Second, wireless customers are “particularly dissatisfied with the cost of their service.” Anyone else see that coming?

Fortunately, there is hope for Canada’s telecom sector yet. While the Big Three—Rogers, Telus, and Bell—faired horribly, smaller and more agile companies managed to pull ahead and impress consumers. 

Still, the overall picture painted is an ugly one: on a 1,000 point scale, satisfaction with cost of service averaged an embarrassing 551. So what is this cost that wireless clients are wailing over? A nasty $78 average per month, up from $71 in 2009. (Though, to carriers’ credit, this rise is mostly due to enhanced data-plan penetration, not rising service costs for the same product.)

“As customers move toward more sophisticated phones and data requirements, their monthly costs tend to increase,” said Adrian Chung, senior manager at J.D. Power and Associates. “While the dissatisfaction with cost of service is clearly a challenge to wireless providers, it’s important to ensure that customers are aware of all the features and benefits included in their wireless plans.”

This low satisfaction level with cost of service has led to increases in switching intent among wireless customers—17 percent of customers who had a wireless sales experience within the past six months report switching carriers, and 28 percent of customers “strongly agree” that they would consider switching to one of the new wireless service providers (including WIND Mobile, Public Mobile and Mobilicity) if its offerings met their needs. That’s up from 21 percent in 2009.

“It’s clear that the introduction of new options for wireless customers has impacted their likelihood to switch,” stated Adrian.

But enough of all this. Who the heck is the best carrier? Well, region pending, it’s…

In the West region, SaskTel ranks highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 678 and performs particularly well in customer service; offerings and promotions; sales process; and network quality. Virgin Mobile (669) and Fido (651) follow in the regional rankings.

Koodo Mobile ranks highest in Ontario with a score of 699, performing particularly well in cost of service. Virgin Mobile follows in the region with 696, and Fido ranks third with 661.

In the East region, Videotron ranks highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 765. Videotron performs particularly well in account management and offerings and promotions. Koodo Mobile (753) and Virgin Mobile (739) follow in the region.