Broadband customers are most dissatisfied with budget ISP TalkTalk last year, while in the mobile market Three failed to deliver quality service, Ofcom’s annual survey has revealed.
The telecom regulator’s study also detailed the negative impact of the coronavirus crisis on telecom providers’ performances. Customer satisfaction in the broadband market was fell to 80%, from 85%, in 2019, while satisfaction in the mobile market eroded from 93% to 90%.
Call waiting times in particular soared. With call centres running skeleton crews and many staff facing a technologically rocky transition to home working, customers faced long waits to speak to representatives, particularly in the first weeks of the crisis last spring.
Even as customer service staff were facing upheaval and networks handling higher traffic, subscribers became more reliant on those services—for work, education and staying in contact with family and friends. Ofcom found that around half of broadband subscribers and 40% of mobile customers found those services more important than ever during the pandemic.
Some providers struggled to cope with the challenges, but others maintained good service.
In the broadband market, two BT subsidiaries, EE Broadband (82% customer satisfaction) and Plusnet (81%), delivered the best service. Broadband giants BT, Sky and Virgin Media performed about evenly, with 80% of customers satisfied. BT performed particularly well in giving customers few reasons to complain, while Sky pulled ahead with its complaints handling.
But fellow internet major TalkTalk stumbled, posting a satisfaction score of just 77%. Customers were particularly annoyed by TalkTalks’s speed, with just 71% pleased (compared to the market average of 79%).
Despite its 80% overall satisfaction rating, Virgin Media had the longest call waiting times, with customers waiting on hold for an average of seven minutes, 40 seconds. Virgin Media also gave 29% of its broadband customers reason to complain and then failed to handle their complaints well, with just 48% of complainers satisfied.
But Vodafone Broadband, which wasn’t given an overall rating, attracted the most complaints last year: 103 per 100,000 customers, after giving nearly a third (32%) of its customers reason to gripe.
Satisfaction was higher with mobile services. Giffgaff, which was just named the UK’s best mobile provider by Which?, had the most satisfied customers, with 93% pleased with the service. 95% of customers thought the service was good value for money, compared to the market average of 83%. Just 5% had reason complained, half the average.
It was followed by EE (92% satisfied), O2 (91%) and Tesco Mobile (91%). But customers were more frustrated with Three: 86% were pleased. While 88% judged Three good value for money, 13% found reason to complain.
Virgin Mobile performed little better, with a satisfaction rating of 88%. Like its broadband customers, mobile subscribers faced the longest call hold times, an average of six minutes, 44 seconds.
Ofcom says providers have now had time to put measures in place to mitigate customer service problems as a result of the pandemic and that it “expect[s] performances to return to 2019 levels, or better, as UK-wide restrictions continue to ease.”
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Networks and Comms Group Director, said: “Telecoms companies adapted quickly to meet soaring demand for their services last year – helping to keep the country connected.
“But some have struggled with customer service problems. We’re challenging them to act now, so the telecoms industry becomes the gold standard for customer service.”
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