Service quality of telecoms providers revealed

12 Ebrill 2017

  • New Ofcom report shows how providers compare on call waiting, complaints handling and reliability
  • Service quality comparison tool is available at www.ofcom.org.uk/servicequality
  • Annual broadband performance report highlights varying speeds

People can find out how well major telecoms providers serve their customers, using an interactive tool launched by Ofcom today.

The online tool presents findings from Ofcom’s first ‘Comparing Service Quality’ report – published today – in a simple, visual format.

The comprehensive report and accompanying checker allows phone and broadband customers to compare how different providers rate for answering customer calls, handling complaints, and reliability of their services.

The data draws on a combination of consumer research and complaints figures, as well as statistics obtained directly from providers that have never been published before.

The findings should incentivise providers to improve their service quality and fix recurring problems.

Importantly, they will also help inform consumers who are shopping around for a new provider.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, launched the Comparing Service Quality report at an event co-hosted by Ofcom and the consumer group Which? earlier today. Sharon said:

“We’re determined to help bring about a service revolution in the telecoms sector, where consistency and excellence becomes the norm, and customers always come first.

“Today we want to shine a light on how different providers perform, and are challenging the industry to up its game on customer service. We’ll be monitoring closely to ensure industry service standards are raised.”

Findings from the report

All the findings cover the calendar year 2016.

Overall satisfaction

Overall, 92% of mobile customers, 89% of landline telephone customers and 87% of broadband customers were satisfied with their service

Virgin Media customers reported the highest levels of overall satisfaction with their broadband service (91%), compared to the sector overall, while BT customers reported the highest levels of overall satisfaction with their landline telephone service (92%). Tesco Mobile customers reported the highest levels of overall satisfaction, compared to the mobile sector as a whole (96%).

Reason to complain

Thirteen percent of broadband customers had a reason to complain to their provider in 2016; this is higher than the proportion of landline telephone customers (5%) and mobile customers (4%).

Virgin Media and TalkTalk had the highest proportion of broadband customers with a reason to complain in 2016 (both 16%). In the mobile market, a higher proportion of Vodafone customers (7%) had reason to complain compared to the market as a whole.

Getting through to customer services

On average, landline telephone and broadband customers had to wait over twice as long to speak to a customer services advisor (2 minutes, 51 seconds) than mobile customers (1 minute). Calls to technical support took two and a half minutes longer on average to answer than sales calls.

Plusnet’s landline and broadband customers waited longest to have their call answered (7 minutes, 27 seconds on average), with more than one in five of its customers (21%) hanging up before getting through.

TalkTalk was quickest at answering its landline and broadband customers’ calls, taking just 47 seconds on average. Together with EE, TalkTalk also had the lowest rate of customers abandoning calls before getting through (4%).

For mobile, O2 customers were kept waiting the longest (2 minutes, 3 seconds on average). The best performer was Tesco Mobile, which took just 30 seconds to answer.

Eight per cent of O2 customers hung up before speaking with an agent, compared with 3% of EE’s mobile customers.

Average call waiting times. Longest: Plusnet (7min 27sec). Shortest: TalkTalk (47sec)

Satisfaction with how complaints were handled

Just over half of broadband and mobile customers who complained to their provider in the last six months of 2016 were satisfied overall with complaint handling (56% and 57% respectively). This is lower than the proportion of landline telephone customers (62%) who were satisfied with complaint handling overall.

In the broadband market, Sky customers had the highest levels of satisfaction with how their complaint was dealt with (61%), while TalkTalk customers had the lowest (51%).

Satisfaction with how complaint was handled. Highest: Sky (61%). Lowest: TalkTalk (51%).

In the mobile market, Tesco Mobile customers had higher levels of satisfaction with how their complaint was handled (74%), compared to the sector overall, while Vodafone customers had the lower levels of satisfaction (46%).

Satisfaction with how complaint was handled. Highest: Tesco Mobile (74%). Lowest: Vodafone (46%).

Satisfaction with complaints handling in the landline telephone sector did not vary by provider.

Satisfaction with reliability and performance

Almost nine in ten broadband customers (86%) were satisfied with the reliability of their service, and 83% were satisfied with their online speeds.

Virgin Media customers reported higher than average levels of satisfaction for both measures (90% reliability and 91% speed). BT and TalkTalk’s broadband customers reported lower than average levels of satisfaction with their online speed (80% and 71% respectively).

For mobile, 86% of customers were satisfied with their reception. Three’s customers reported lower than average satisfaction with their reception (80%).

Satisfaction with reception by mobile network operator. O2: 86%. Vodafone: 86%. EE: 85%. Three: 80%.

Time taken to provide new landline and broadband services

Providers take an average of 13 calendar days to get a new broadband service up and running; 16 days to set up a landline service, and 16 days to install a landline and broadband service together.

The time taken to install new services varied among providers using the Openreach network.[1]

Sky set up 59% of new landline or broadband services within two weeks in urban areas and, along with Post Office, completed 52% of customer orders in rural areas within the same time.

TalkTalk was the slowest to set up its customers’ new landline or broadband services – completing only 47% of orders in urban areas within two weeks, and 42% in rural areas.

Virgin Media, which does not rely on the Openreach network, completed almost three-quarters of landline and broadband service installations within a fortnight (74%) in urban areas.

Time taken to repair faults

Where there’s a network fault requiring an engineer, the time taken to send the engineer will affect how quickly the issue is fixed. Providers using Openreach - the part of BT responsible for repairs and installations - can pay for a faster repair service for network problems.

In 2016, most providers that rely on Openreach paid for repairs within two working days, the lowest service level.

At the start of 2016, most of Sky and TalkTalk’s residential customers were on the next working day service level, but both providers downgraded most customers to two working day repairs during the year.

In contrast, BT upgraded most of its customers onto the next working day service level, in summer 2016.

Openreach repait level used for most residential customers (December 2016). One working day repair (level 2): BT and Post Office (broadband). Two working days repair (level 1): EE, Plusnet, Post Office (landline), Sky, TalkTalk.

Performance of home broadband services

Ofcom has also published its annual report on UK Home Broadband Performance today.

This compares the performance of 19 popular broadband packages, from seven internet providers.

The average UK broadband download speed reached 36.2Mbit/s in November 2016 – an increase of 7.3Mbit/s (25%) since November 2015.

The average UK upload speed was 4.3Mbit/s in November 2016, an increase of 0.6Mbit/s (16%), compared to a year previously.

Of the packages compared, Virgin Media's ‘up to 200 Mbit/s’ cable package achieved the fastest download speeds (averaging 173.1Mbit/s over a 24-hour period and 149.5Mbit/s during the 8-10pm peak period). ‘Up to 76Mbit/s’ fibre-to-the-cabinet services recorded the fastest upload speeds (averaging 15.6Mbit/s over 24-hours and during peak times).

The speeds offered by providers are not consistent throughout the day, and can fall significantly during busy periods due to people going online at the same time. The report finds that:

  • average download speeds are 34.6Mbit/s during the 8-10pm peak period, compared to average maximum speeds of 39.1Mbit/s;
  • although speeds for cable customers compare favourably with other superfast fibre packages overall, a significant minority of Virgin Media’s customers suffer severe slowdowns at peak times. For example, 9% of customers using its ‘up to 50Mbit/s’ product and 6% of customers using its ’up to 100Mbit/s’ product experienced average speeds of 10Mbit/s or less during peak periods.

Next steps

Ofcom has not been able to publish certain quality of service information, either because providers do not currently collect it, or they do so in a way that doesn’t allow like-for-like comparisons.

In future, we expect to use new powers – likely to be conferred by the forthcoming Digital Economy Act – to require providers to collect more information in a way that allows performance to be directly compared. This might include areas such as fault rates and repair times.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. Providers using the Openreach network are subject to Ofcom rules to prevent landline and broadband customers having their service transferred to another provider without their consent. This rule (General Condition 22) requires that line-takeovers must take a minimum of ten working days to complete, allowing time for the transfer to be stopped if the customer has not agreed to it – a practice known as ‘slamming’. The 10 working day transfer rules do not apply to switches to or from Virgin Media’s network.
  2. Ofcom has recently published proposals to require providers to pay automatic compensation to landline and broadband customers who suffer, slow repairs, late installations or missed engineer appointments. Ofcom estimates that the plans would mean up to 2.6 million additional customers could receive up to £185m in new compensations payments each year.
  3. Dashboards for broadband, landline and mobile are below:

Broadband key data: on average 75 Ofcom complaints per 100,000 subscribers.

Landline key data: on average 56 Ofcom complaints per 100,000 subscribers.

Mobile key data: on average 35 Ofcom complaints per 100,000 subscribers.