BT's EE Mobile Unit Taps Apple, Sainsbury's in Retention Push

  • Free Apple Music deal expanded to include existing customers
  • Carrier to open 100 new stores in Sainsbury’s locations

A sign hangs in the window of an EE store.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Britain’s largest mobile carrier EE is building on existing partnerships with Apple Inc. and J Sainsbury Plc in a bid to hold onto subscribers as competition intensifies in the U.K. wireless market. 

EE, which BT Group Plc acquired last year, will open 100 retail locations over the next two years in Sainsbury’s supermarket and Argos catalog stores, adding 400 customer service roles. That will bring its footprint to almost 700 stores.

The carrier is also expanding an offering of six months of free Apple Music inclusive of free data to include existing subscribers as well. Previously it was only given to new customers. EE made the announcements on Thursday.

U.K. consumers increasingly have more options for their mobile service, after broadband and TV players including Sky Plc have started wireless businesses and as regulators prevent consolidation. The customer-service push and music offer are part of EE’s efforts to hold onto its dominant position, as rivals seek to lure subscribers away with promises of high network coverage and capacity, generous data packages and perks such as advanced sales for concert tickets.

EE has brought all call-center jobs back to the U.K. and Ireland since April 2016 to address complaints over outsourcing, a move emulated by other divisions of BT and by Vodafone Group Plc. EE is one of the least complained-about mobile businesses, according to data compiled by communications regulator Ofcom, although Tesco Mobile, Telefonica SA’s O2, and CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three UK have better marks.

“We provide some of the best customer service of any mobile operator in the U.K., and we’ve learned there’s no substitute for getting help from an expert in person,” EE Chief Executive Officer Marc Allera said in a statement on Thursday.

BT had a monthly churn rate of 2.1 percent across its mobile businesses including EE in its fourth quarter of fiscal 2017. Churn is an industry measure of the number of customers that leave the business.

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