Ofcom reveals best and worst telecoms customer service
Customers can today find out which phone and broadband providers take the longest to answer their calls, as Ofcom publishes its latest report into customer service levels across the telecoms industry.
Ofcom’s seventh annual comparing customer service report paints a mixed picture of how providers performed in 2022.
It reveals that people were more likely to be satisfied with their mobile provider (87%) than their broadband (82%) or landline company (77%). And while average numbers of overall complaints to Ofcom fell year-on-year, there are clear areas where the industry needs to improve, particularly around call waiting times and complaints handling.
The most popular way by far for customers to contact their provider is by phone, accounting for 77% of mobile customer contacts and 90% of landline and broadband contacts. Webchat was the next most popular way, at 17% and 6% respectively.
In 2022, despite the impact of Covid-19 subsiding, mobile customers spent an average of 2min 23s in a queue, up from 2min 15s the previous year. Broadband and landline customers waited 2min 37s on average, compared to 2min 16s in 2021.
However, when comparing individual companies, their performance varies.
Average call waiting times by broadband and landline provider
Across broadband and landline providers, BT, EE, NOW Broadband, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Vodafone all saw their average call waiting times rise in 2022, while KCOM, Sky and Virgin Media managed to improve on the previous year.
NOW Broadband remains the best performer, keeping its call waiting times under a minute on average at 51 seconds, despite taking longer to answer the phone in 2022 (up from 31s in 2021). Shell Energy is the worst, coming in at over eight minutes on average.
Average call waiting times by mobile provider
For mobile, EE, BT, iD Mobile and Three all saw their average call waiting times increase compared with 2021, while O2, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone reduced theirs.
Three continued to be fastest on the phone lines at 47 seconds on average, although this did triple in 2022. EE has the longest average call waiting times at 3min 41s – up from 2min 25s – while last year’s worst performer, O2, reduced its waiting time from 4 minutes to 2:33.
Deal with it
One in five broadband customers (20%), and around one in ten (12%) mobile customers, said they had a reason to complain about their service or provider in 2022.
However, satisfaction with how complaints are handled continues to be an industry-wide issue. Similar to 2021, only around half of mobile, broadband and landline customers who made a complaint to their provider in 2022 were satisfied with how it was handled. Just over a third (34%) of complainants in each of these sectors said they were neutral about the way their complaint was handled with between 13% and 15% saying they were dissatisfied.
As part of its research, Ofcom spoke to customers who had recently contacted their provider with a complaint to understand the steps providers could take to improve their complaints handling.
The call centre experience was identified as a key element of the complaints process, with call waiting times, getting through to the right person quickly, and dealing with the complaint first time all factors that participants in the research said could be improved.
Says Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence:
“We’ve asked telecoms customers what frustrates them most with their providers, and the message is clear: they want to get through to the right person on the phone quickly, and have their complaints dealt with first time.
“With switching becoming simpler, providers that continue to let standards slip should expect customers to show them the door.”
Among mobile providers, Virgin Mobile scored lower than average for overall satisfaction (81%), while Tesco Mobile and giffgaff customers had higher-than-average satisfaction (both 95%).
Tesco Mobile (95%) and giffgaff (93%) also scored above average for value for money, with EE (74%) and Vodafone (76%) scoring below average.
For broadband, Plusnet customers were more likely than average to be satisfied with their service overall (89%). TalkTalk (46%) and Virgin Media (46%) were both below average on how complaints were handled, while Sky was above average on this measure (55%).
Virgin Media customers had below-average satisfaction (70%) with its landline service, with EE (90%) above average on this measure.