|Customer satisfaction with Oftel's complaint handling - Wave 3, April 2003 - 19 June 2003|
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 – Summary
Chapter 3 – Method and type of contact
Chapter 4 – Time taken to respond to initial contacts
Chapter 5 – Satisfaction with complaint handling
Chapter 6 – Benchmarking and general comparisons
Chapter 7 – Improvements to the procedure
Appendix A – Questionnaire
1.1 Oftel's Consumer Representation Section (CRS) is responsible for answering and where possible dealing with or referring business and residential consumer complaints or enquiries. On average CRS receive around 7,922 contacts per month. Around 85% of these are from residential consumers and 15% businesses. Most contacts are complaints (70%) and 30% are enquiries. Approximately three-quarters of Oftel's contacts are received by phone and a quarter in writing.
1.2 The survey was designed to assess how satisfied customers are with the way in which Oftel handled their complaint or enquiry, and how Oftel’s performance compares with other companies and organisations. This report makes comparisons to data from the previous waves.
1.3 This report is based on the key findings from the third wave of research of business and residential consumers’ perceptions of Oftel’s complaints handling procedure. The survey was conducted over a six-month period between November 2002 and April 2003, amongst 519 consumers.
1.4 The sample was drawn at random from Oftel’s database of consumers and comprised customers who had contacted Oftel during the preceding month.
1.5 To ensure a representative sample was achieved, quotas were applied to the type of customer (business/residential), method of contact (phone/letter/email/fax) and type of contact (complaint/enquiry). In order to achieve a larger and more robust sample of business contacts, business consumers were also over-sampled and then re-weighted to their natural proportion.
1.6 The results are subject to an error margin of about 3 – 4%, this is slightly higher amongst smaller subgroups. Results referred to as 'significantly' different, have been tested at the 95% level of confidence, please see footnote for further sample details (see note one below).
1.7 The survey was conducted on behalf of Oftel by Continental Research during November ’02 – April ‘03. This report has been prepared by Oftel (see note two below) based on the results provided by Continental Research.
1.8 The report covers:
1.9 A copy of the questions is attached in Appendix A.
1. The survey was conducted amongst a sample of consumers contacting Oftel with a complaint or enquiry. As businesses make up around 20% of contacts to Oftel these were over-sampled in the survey to produce a sufficiently robust sample to allow analysis of the results and then re-weighted back to their natural proportion. The error margin for this survey of 519 consumers is about 3-4%, but is higher amongst smaller subgroups. Results referred to as 'significantly' different, have been tested at the 95% level of confidence and hence are outside of the error margins and therefore can be considered real changes. All data shown is weighted data. Unweighted base sizes are shown on charts and tables to show the number of consumers who were asked the question.
2. The report should not be seen as recommended best buys and should not therefore be relied upon when making purchase decisions. Oftel has conducted its own checks on the data in this report and whilst we consider it to be correct, Oftel accepts no liability in respect of any of the results provided to it by Continental or any decisions taken by any person in reliance on the report.
Most consumers whose complaint/enquiry was handled by Oftel continue to be satisfied with the overall handling
2.1 70% of consumers were satisfied with Oftel’s overall handling of their complaint/enquiry. This figure rises to 83% amongst those contacts dealt with in-house (as opposed to those referred to other companies/organisations) – slightly higher but not significantly different to last wave. There was no difference in satisfaction between Oftel handled complaints and Oftel handled enquiries.
Rises in satisfaction recorded amongst businesses
2.2 Overall satisfaction amongst business customers rose from 60% last wave to 68%. This rise was within the error margins of the business sample so should be treated as indicative only. Business’s satisfaction with different elements of service also appear to have risen last since last wave. Significant rises in satisfaction were recorded with ‘being explained what action would be taken’ and with the complaint being ‘dealt with in a reasonable period of time.
Oftel claims similar or above levels of satisfaction in comparison to the government department average
2.4 Around 8 in 10 (82%) consumers who contacted Oftel and had previously contacted other companies/organisations claimed that Oftel’s handling was on a par with if not better than the other company contacted – little change from previous waves.
2.5 Results from the benchmarking exercise indicate that Oftel generally compares well to the average benchmark for government organisations, in particular for satisfaction with the handling of complaints rather than enquiries (67% satisfied at Oftel compared to 46% average). The top performer of this group gained 78% satisfaction – this is not significantly higher than Oftel’s score.
2.6 Oftel continues to compare well to the top performer with courtesy of staff (94% for Oftel compared to 100% for the top performer), and the ease of getting through to staff (93% for Oftel compared to 98% for the top performer).
6 in 10 consumers are receiving responses within Oftel’s target timescales
2.7 Nearly 6 in 10 (57%) of all contacts claimed to have received a response within the relevant timescales which Oftel set itself. Email responses were best at 77%, 51% phone contacts claimed their enquiry or complaint was resolved or referred on the same day and 74% of written contacts claimed they received a full response within 7 working days.
Rise sustained in percentage of callers who spoke to an advisor the first time they rang
2.8 Similarly to previous findings, 94% of consumers who contacted Oftel were satisfied that the advisor was polite and paid attention. 91% were satisfied with the ease of getting hold of someone. This is supported by the fact that 85% of callers spoke to an advisor the first time they rang – the improvement recorded last wave has been sustained.
2.9 Consumers continue to be less satisfied with the actual process. Being kept informed of progress, was again the least satisfactory aspect with 53% satisfied, though the rise in satisfaction with this aspect reported last wave was sustained. This is reflected in the suggestions for improving the process (11% mentioned call me back/ keep me informed of progress) and consistent with the 4 in 10 of the contacts dealt with by Oftel who are under the impression that their complaint/enquiry is still being dealt with. Consumers interviewed are all drawn from closed cases. Amongst contacts dealt with by Oftel satisfaction with this aspect, was higher, standing at 63%.
Method and type of contact
3.1 The top issues that consumers have recently been complaining or enquiring about are:
3.2 Older consumers (aged 45+) were significantly more likely (17%) to contact Oftel by letter than younger consumers, 4% of those aged 15-34 and 11% of those aged 35 – 44. This is consistent with previous findings.
3.3 According to the consumers interviewed, Oftel was able to deal with half of all complaints/enquiries during this period. The remainder were either referred to their telephone supplier (32%), or someone else (7%), and some mentioned their complaint/enquiry was handled in an alternative way (11%), as shown in figure 3a. This is consistent with previous findings. According to Oftel’s statistics around half of contacts are handled by Oftel and around half are referred to a telephone company.
% contacts handled by Oftel
3.4 Just over half (55%) of consumers spoken to said that their complaint/enquiry had been resolved (Interviews were conducted during the month following contact with Oftel, therefore contacts which had been resolved would have taken between 1 day and a maximum of 6 weeks). The average number of resolved complaints rises to over 6 in 10 (64%) amongst those handled by Oftel which means that just under 4 in 10 of these consumers are under the impression that Oftel is still dealing with their complaint/enquiry when in fact it has been resolved. These results are broadly similar to previous waves, when 59% of Oftel handled contacts said that their complaint/ enquiry had been resolved, indicating no significant improvement in consumers’ awareness of the status of their contact.
Contact reference number
3.5 It is Oftel’s policy to ensure that all consumers who contact them are given either a contact name or a reference number. 7 out of 10 said that they remembered being given this information. The remainder either said they were not (21%), or did not know (9%).
3.6 The slight rise in the percentage of written consumers remembering a reference for their contact reported last wave has been sustained (68%), suggesting that procedural changes made during 2002 continue to be effective. This figure remains in line with those contacting Oftel by telephone (70%).
Time taken to respond to initial contacts
4.1 Nearly 6 in 10 (57%) contacts claimed to have received a response within the target timescales which Oftel set itself. Due to slight changes in the questions asked to assess whether Oftel is meeting its timescale targets this is not directly comparable to previous wave’s findings, but remains broadly similar.
4.2 Most (77%) email enquirers said they had received a response within the allotted 2 working days timeframe, as shown in figure 4a. This is consistent with previous waves’ findings. Last wave, Oftel statistics showed a rise in the percentage of email enquiries responded to within 2 days, from 75% in the first wave to 93%, this has been sustained this wave at 89%. However this has not been reflected by the survey – perhaps due to a time lapse between the email being sent and it actually being read.
4.3 Oftel’s target for replying to letters is to send out a reply within four working days of receipt. In previous waves enquirers were asked whether they had received a reply within four working days. This wave respondents were asked if they had received a reply with seven working days, in order to take into account the time taken from sending the reply to receipt. The survey showed that three-quarters (74%) had received a reply within seven working days. In November 2002, 4 in 10 consumers claimed to have received a reply within four working days. This rise has not greatly impacted on the overall proportion receiving a response within the target timeframe, as letters only account for 13% of the total sample. Last wave, statistics showed that the percentage of letters sent out within 4 working days had risen since the first wave from 72% to 96%. This rise was sustained during this wave, and stands at 98%.
% consumers received reply within Oftel’s target
* apply caution as base size less than 100
4.4 Oftel’s statistics indicate that 82% of calls were answered within 30 seconds. Previous waves measured the proportion who claimed their call was answered in less than 30 seconds. However, due to the time lapse between making the complaint/ enquiry and the time of interview, consumers may have had difficulty estimating how long their call took to be answered. Because of this, the method of questioning was altered slightly this wave, to ask consumers whether their phone contact was resolved or referred to another organisation on the same day.
4.5 Half (51%) of those contacting Oftel by telephone claimed that their complaint/ enquiry had been resolved or referred to another organisation that same day. Those making an enquiry were significantly more likely to claim to have had this resolved or referred on the same day (64%) than those making a complaint (49%). Oftel’s statistics indicate that nearly all (97%) of phone contacts were resolved or referred to another organisation on the same day during this wave. The difference between Oftel’s statistics and the survey is consistent with the finding that 4 in 10 of those whose contact was handled in-house were under the impression that Oftel is still dealing with their complaint/ enquiry when in fact it has been resolved.
Telephone queuing system
4.6 Oftel uses an automated queuing system which consumers will be forwarded to if an advisor is unavailable. Consumers were asked whether they were transferred to the automated system and if so, whether they waited to speak to an advisor. Over half (58%) spoke to an advisor immediately, a rise, though not significant, from 51% last wave. As found last wave, the vast majority (95%) of those in a queue held on to speak to somebody. The queuing system continues not to be a barrier to consumers wishing to contact Oftel.
4.7 Of those held in a queue, three-quarters (74%) were told what position in the queue they were in.
4.8 The vast majority of consumers (85%) phoning Oftel called just once before speaking to an advisor as shown in figure 4b – the significant improvement from 79% in April 2002, reported in November 2002, has been sustained.
Average number of calls made by consumer before speaking to advisor
Satisfaction with complaint handling
5.1 Consistent with previous findings, 7 out of 10 consumers were satisfied with the overall handling of their complaint/enquiry, this figure rises to 83% amongst consumers whose complaint/enquiry was dealt with in-house. In previous waves satisfaction amongst those referred elsewhere was lower than those dealt with in-house. This is still true, though the difference is less marked, due to a small rise in satisfaction (within the survey’s error margins) amongst this group.
5.2 Satisfaction amongst business customers has risen to 68% this wave, from 60% in November ’02. The figure stands at 78% among those businesses whose complaint/ enquiry was handled in house. However, due to small sample size of businesses, this is within the error margins of the survey, so this finding should be treated with caution.
5.3 As found in previous waves, satisfaction also rises amongst those consumers who are aware that their contact has now been resolved (84%) compared to those whose complaint/enquiry is still being dealt with (53%). These figures rise to 93% and 66% respectively amongst contacts resolved in-house.
5.4 Satisfaction with the overall handling was significantly higher amongst those phoning Oftel than those writing (72% and 63% respectively). However, there was no difference in overall satisfaction according to contact method among those whose contact was handled by Oftel – both written and phone contacts stood at 83%.
% satisfied with overall handling of complaint/enquiry
*Base size less than 100 so apply caution
5.5 Of the 3 in 10 consumers who felt that their complaint/enquiry was not dealt with satisfactorily, just under half (45%) had been referred to another source. Various reasons were given by consumers who were not satisfied with their complaint handling, as shown in figure 5b.
Main reasons for dissatisfaction with complaint handling
5.6 A quarter of contacts not satisfied mentioned dissatisfaction with something that Oftel is able to control, a significant fall from 35% last wave. The main reason given was consumers claiming that Oftel had never got back to them (15% of those dissatisfied) – this is consistent with last wave. Other reasons were criticism with staff dealing with complaint, not kept sufficiently informed, took too long to resolve enquiry/complaint. 17% of Oftel handled contacts were dissatisfied with the handling of their complaint/ enquiry. Of these, about a third stated reasons within Oftel’s control, such as ‘never got back to me’, ‘criticism of staff dealing with complaint’ or ‘not kept sufficiently informed’. Further analysis of these 15 contacts reveals that the majority were actually referred to someone else and not dealt with by Oftel, suggesting some confusion amongst contacts with regard to the handling of their complaint or enquiry.
Satisfaction with various aspects of process
5.7 9 out of 10 (91%) consumers were satisfied with the ease of getting hold of someone to deal with their complaint/enquiry, as shown in figure 5c. This is consistent with previous findings.
5.8 The following section explores satisfaction with advisors being polite and paying attention and whether they were interested and keen to assist. Written contacts, when asked about satisfaction with these aspects, were more likely to say ‘don’t know’, unsurprising as it would be difficult to gauge this from written correspondence. Therefore the following section relating to satisfaction with Oftel’s advisors is based on the responses of all consumers contacting Oftel by phone.
5.9 This wave’s findings confirm previous findings, suggesting that one of Oftel’s strengths is that telephone advisors are polite and pay attention to callers, 94% of contacts were satisfied with this aspect of their complaint/enquiry. 82% of consumers contacting Oftel by phone were satisfied that the advisor was interested and keen to assist.
5.10 In relation to the actual complaint handling process, 8 out of 10 (83%) were satisfied with the length of time taken to deal with their complaint/enquiry while slightly less, (74%) were satisfied that Oftel had done what they said they were going to. Nearly 8 in 10 (76%) were satisfied that they had been told what action would be taken, sustaining the significant rise since Wave 1, reported in November ‘02. Satisfaction with all of these measures rose amongst contacts handled in-house, as shown in figure 5c.
5.11 Consumers were still least satisfied that they had been kept informed of progress throughout their contact, however the significant rise in satisfaction with this aspect reported last wave has been sustained, at 53%.
5.12 This low level of satisfaction in comparison to other aspects remains consistent with the ‘top suggestion’ for improving the service – ‘call me back, keep me informed of progress’ – mentioned by 11% of consumers and that 4 in 10 remain unaware that their contact has been resolved. As shown in figure 5c satisfaction with this aspect rises to 63% amongst those handled in-house where the responsibility for keeping the consumer informed still lies with Oftel. Amongst Oftel-handled cases where the contact is aware that their contact has been resolved, satisfaction stands at 76%.
5.13 Phone contacts were more likely to be satisfied that Oftel had ‘explained what action they would take’, (79%) than written contacts (65%). This difference is perhaps unsurprising due to the limitation of written correspondence compared to a phone call.
% satisfied with aspects of complaint handling process
5.14 As observed in the last waves, unsurprisingly, resolved complaints/enquiries gained much higher levels of satisfaction for each aspect than those still being dealt with.
5.15 In November ’02 it was reported that residential consumers were generally more satisfied than business consumers. Consistent with the small rise in overall satisfaction amongst business consumers there are now few differences in satisfaction between business and residential consumers. The only significant difference between businesses and residential consumers this wave is in satisfaction with ‘explained what action would be taken’ where businesses were more likely to be satisfied (86%) than residential consumers (74%).
5.16 Satisfaction with each element amongst businesses has risen this wave. The rises were significant in ‘explained what action would be taken’ – a rise from 68% in November ’02 to 86% in April ’03 and in satisfaction that the complaint had been ‘dealt with in a reasonable amount of time’, rising from 73% to 85% over the same period. Oftel have emphasised to staff the areas identified by last wave’s research where there was room for improvement. Last wave’s findings showed that overall satisfaction among residential consumers was higher than amongst businesses. The rises in satisfaction amongst businesses this wave may be due to Oftel staff’s response to this information, resulting in improved service for businesses.
Benchmarking and general comparisons
6.1 This wave sees findings broadly similar previous waves. 8 in 10 (82%) consumers who had previously made a complaint to another organisation thought that Oftel had dealt with their complaint/enquiry on a par with or better than the other organisation they had contacted, as shown in figure 6a below.
Oftel’s complaint handling compared to other organisations
6.2 14% of consumers thought Oftel had handled their contact worse than other organisations. There were no significant differences according to method of contact, Last wave, consumers who were referred to another source were significantly more likely to say that Oftel’s handling was worse than their other experiences. This wave the difference is less marked, due to a lower proportion of referred cases saying Oftel’s handling was worse. The difference is no longer significant – 14% in comparison to those handled in-house (8%). Amongst those who said that Oftel’s handling was worse than other organisations, the top suggestion for improving contact handling procedure was ‘keep me informed of progress’, mentioned by a quarter of this group.
6.3 Residential consumers were more likely this wave to say that Oftel’s handling was better or at least on a par with other organisations they had contacted – 83% compared to 67% of business consumers.
6.4 Oftel submitted responses to key questions from wave 2 to an externally run benchmarking group. Results are collected and compared on a 6 monthly basis. Each organisation receives a report stating their position in relation to the group, various average benchmarks and the named ‘top performer’ for each aspect. Currently 92 private/public sector or government organisations submit data.
6.5 The following chart shows Oftel’s position in relation to the government department average and the ‘top performer’ for each aspect.
Figure 6b: Oftel’s satisfaction results benchmarked against the average for government departments and ‘top performer’
6.6 As last wave on the whole Oftel compares well to the average benchmark for government departments. As precise sample sizes for each organisation’s survey are not published, we are unable to accurately establish whether these differences are significant, however, they give an indication of areas of strength and weakness in comparison to other organisations.
6.7 Overall satisfaction (80%) remains broadly similar to the government average (83%) but based on estimations of base sizes is likely to be significantly lower than the top performer/s.
6.8 On the other hand, Oftel’s overall satisfaction figure relating to complaints handling (67%) is not significantly different to the 78% submitted by the top performer.
6.9 Oftel continues to compare well to the ‘top performer’ on ease of contact, and the courtesy of staff.
6.10. The only aspect where Oftel is likely to be significant lower than the top-performer is for satisfaction that staff are keen and interested to assist. In this instance Oftel is compared to a bank. Financial companies and organisations are renowned for high levels of customer service – however, this is not to say that Oftel should not be striving to reach such a level!
Improvements to the procedure
7.1 Most consumers who contacted Oftel thought that in their experience Oftel handled their contact on a par with, if not better than, other organisations and 83% of those contacts dealt with by Oftel were satisfied with the overall handling of their complaint/enquiry. In light of these findings – did consumers have any suggestions for further improving the service?
7.2 An encouraging 2 in 5 (39%) said they were satisfied with the service they had received and had no suggestions for improvement. A further 14% did not know how the service could be improved – either suggesting that it couldn’t be, or that there was nothing immediately obvious to them.
Suggestions for improving Oftel’s complaint handling procedure
Totals add to more than 100% as some consumers made more than one suggestion
7.3 The remainder (47%) suggested various ways for improvement, detailed in figure 7a. The most popular were to keep the consumer informed of progress throughout the complaint handling (mentioned by 11% of complainants), and to investigate the complaint and not refer it back to company, mentioned by 6%. A similar proportion (5%) suggested Oftel should be more interested/customer friendly.
7.4 The proportion of consumers suggesting that Oftel should keep the consumer informed of progress has fallen significantly from the first wave of the research in October 2001 – March 2002, when it was suggested by 17%. This suggests that Oftel may be performing better in this aspect, perhaps in response to it being identified as the top suggestion for improvement (within Oftel’s power) in previous waves.
7.5 Similarly to the reasons for dissatisfaction, around half of those who offered a suggestion for improving the service gave a suggestion that was out of Oftel’s control, such as having more power to resolve complaints. The main suggestion for improving the service, within Oftel’s power, was to keep the consumer informed of progress.
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* a) Ease of getting
hold of someone
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Was in queue and
told which position
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Held on until got
through to a person
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ANY OTHER COMPANY OR ORGANISATION
Is that a lot or
* questions submitted for benchmarking group