Telecoms industry told to ‘up its game’ on customer service

New report from regulator Ofcom reveals for the first time how providers compare customer service measures and says it wants “consistency and excellence” to become the norm.


The telecoms industry has been told to “up its game” on customer service after a new report by Ofcom revealed issues around the quality and speed of service and how customer calls and complaints are dealth with.

The report found that while 92% of mobile customers, 89% of landline customers and 87% of broadband customers are ‘satisfied’ with their service, the level of service varies across providers.

For example, Virgin Media and TalkTalk had the highest proportion of broadband customers with a reason to complain in 2016, at 16%, while in the mobile industry Vodafone saw the highest complaints at 7%.

Plusnet’s landline and broadband customers had to wait the longest (seven minutes and 27 seconds on average) to have their call answered, resulting in 21% hanging up before getting through. By comparison, TalkTalk’s wait time was just 47 seconds, meaning 4% abandoned calls before getting through.

Overall, almost half of broadband and mobile customers (44% and 43% respectively) are not satisfied with complaint handling, with Sky doing best at 39% and TalkTalk the worst at 49%.

In the broadband space, reliability and performance continue to be big issues. While 86% of consumers are satisfied with reliability and 83% with speed, Ofcom claimed the speeds provided are “not consistent throughout the day” and “fall significantly during busy periods”. As an example, it found that 9% of Virgin Media customers using its ‘up to 50Mbit/s’ and 6% using its ‘up to 100Mbit/s’ product had average speeds of 10Mbit/s or less at peak times.

READ MORE: Broadband providers face new ad rules to help make pricing more transparent

Ofcom hopes the report, along with a new service quality comparison tool, will help consumers understand how well the major providers are serving their customers and inform those shopping around for a new provider.

It also hopes the data will “incentivise” providers to improve their service quality and fix ongoing problems.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s CEO, says: “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.”

Ofcom also expects to use new powers likely given to it in the forthcoming Digital Economy Act to require providers to collect more information so that the data can include metrics such as fault rates and repair times. Currently, Ofcom cannot publish this data because either providers do not collect it or they collect it in a way that means comparisons between companies is difficult.

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