Purpose– As wireless penetration continues to increase worldwide, competitors in the mobile telecommunication industry are changing their strategies from a growth model to a value‐added one. The companies that can attract and retain customers in this highly competitive and increasingly saturated market stand poised to make considerable gains, and thus customer retention is an important field of study in this maturing market. Using the Canadian mobile phone market as an example, this work aims to study the major motivators of customer retention and their interrelationships, and assess the value that customers perceive with regard to the related advertising.：Design/methodology/approach– Based on a literature review and expert validation, the motivators of customer retention are divided into three dimensions and eight criteria. A systematic hybrid multiple criteria decision‐making (MCDM) method that combines the decision making trial and evaluation laboratory (DEMATEL) technique and the analytic network process (ANP) is used to examine the customer retention framework and to evaluate the promotional strategies used by various market players.；Findings– The interdependence relation shows that phone service quality, customer service quality, and phone plan quality are three major motivators in terms of causality with regard to brand image, customer service quality, and complaint management, while phone service quality has become a hygiene factor with regard to customer satisfaction and retention. The findings from an assessment of the promotional strategies used by the major players in the Canadian mobile telecoms industry suggest that well‐financed foreign entrants pose a risk to the major domestic carriers, and that successful promotional strategies will require strong leverage of their existing price and quality advantages.；Originality/value– This work adopted a hybrid MCDM approach to examine a major strategic issue in mobile telecoms, – i.e. customer retention – and demonstrated the strengths of using this method to investigate rapidly changing markets. The relative importance of the motivators of satisfaction and retention is investigated, and a strategy for customer retention in the mobile telecoms industry is provided to managers.