Levels of satisfaction with the ten biggest communications providers' customer services are today revealed in new Ofcom research.
The research covers landline, broadband, mobile and pay TV providers with a market share of 4 per cent or more.
It shows that consumers are least satisfied with the customer service provided by landline and broadband operators and most satisfied with the service they receive from their mobile and pay TV operators.
It comes as new rules come into force tomorrow (22 July) whichwill require communications providers to do more to help consumers resolve complaints.
Thousands of consumers were interviewed as part of Ofcom's research in February 2011 and asked to rate their customer service experience if they had contacted their provider in the previous 3 months.
This included giving scores out of ten for various aspects ranging from how easy it was to contact customer services and the speeds with which they were dealt with, to satisfaction with the advice they were given and the person who dealt with them.
The main reasons consumers contact their landline provider are to change their package or service or because of poor line quality.
While no providers satisfaction scores were significantly better or worse than average both BT and BSkyB have improved on aspects of their customer service since 2009 including their speed at answering phones and keeping customers informed throughout the process.
However, TalkTalk's customer service received below average marks (with scores of between 4.2 and 6.7 out of 10). This was mainly due to customers being unable to get through to the right person, the speed of answering the phone and general dissatisfaction with the customer service advisor.
This is consistent with a higher than average level of complaints received by Ofcom about TalkTalk compared to other major providers.
Connection speeds remain the biggest issue for broadband customers, followed by changing package and, increasingly, higher than expected bills.
Orange, who had the lowest satisfaction levels with customer service in 2009 (42 per cent), now tops the board with 76 per cent.
Both BT and Sky customers also reported improved satisfaction scores on at least 6 of the customer service aspects measured. TalkTalk customers are the least satisfied with aspects of customer service, for similar reasons to their landline service.
TalkTalk also have the least loyal customers (34 per cent saying they are less likely to use TalkTalk again for their broadband service).
Satisfaction with mobile providers' customer service is higher than average (69 per cent). Consumers tend to contact their mobile provider to discuss changes to package or service, billing issues and to a lesser extent fault/repair issues.
O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone have all seen significant improvements in satisfaction levels since 2009 on at least half of the aspects measured.
More of Three's customers contacted the company during the research period than any other provider (39 per cent) and Three has a higher proportion of complaints and fault issues than average.
Overall, satisfaction with Pay TV customer services is higher than average (66 per cent). The key reasons consumers give for contacting their pay TV provider are changing package or service, and arranging an engineer visit.
Dissatisfaction with Virgin Media's customer service has increased since 2009 from 10 per cent to 16 per cent. This is mainly due to customers reporting lower than average satisfaction with customer service advisers.
Similar to the landline market, BSkyB appears to have improved on most aspects of its customer service.
Ofcom hopes publication of this research will act as an incentive to communications providers to improve their customer service levels. For this and other reasons, the quality of customer services provided by communications suppliers can change over time. To ensure that consumers and Ofcom have an accurate picture of service levels, Ofcom intends to conduct this again in the next 12 months.
If a complaint remains unresolved after eight weeks, customers have the right to take their complaint to a free, independent, Ofcom-approved resolution service – Ombudsman Services: Communications or CISAS. Decisions made by the resolution services are legally binding on the provider.
From tomorrow (22 July) phone and broadband providers will have to:
- include information of the relevant dispute resolution service on all paper bills; and
- write to customers whose complaints have not been resolved within eight weeks to inform them of their right to take their complaint to a dispute resolution service.
Ofcom is currently considering ways to make the switching processes quicker and easier across communications services, to improve consumers' experience and to make competition more effective. Ofcom expects to issue an update to its switching review later this year.
Consumer Group Director, Claudio Pollack, said: "The research shows that there can be considerable differences in consumers' experiences of customer service. By publishing this research we want to give consumers an insight into the standard of customer service being offered across the communications sector. The more information of this kind consumers have, the more effectively they can exercise their choice."
The full Quality of Research report can be found here: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-resear ch/telecoms-research/quality-of-customer-service/.
1. The research involved 3000 interviews as part of a nationally representative telephone omnibus. An online panel survey was then completed amongst consumers who had contacted their provider in the previous three months. Between 1,300 and 2,000 customer service events were identified within each of the four service areas: landline, mobile, broadband and pay TV.
2. Customer service is one of the most complained about issues to Ofcom (9600 complaints in 2010). Consumer information plays a critical role in promoting effective competition as the absence of key information (price, quality of service and value for money) can lead to poor purchasing decisions and inhibit switching.
3. Advice for consumers on how to complain about their communications provider can be found at: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2009/07/complaints-guide/.
4. Under section 14 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom must make arrangements to ascertain the experiences of consumers in relation to the provision of communication services and handing of complaints. Under section 15 of that Act, Ofcom has a duty to publish any such research.