opinion


Survey reveals customer attitudes to UK ISPs

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Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third-party contributors to submit analysis on a key topic affecting the telco industry. In this article Matt Powell of broadband comparison site Broadband Genie, summarises the findings from their recent survey of UK broadband users.

Since 2012 Broadband Genie has been examining the state of the home broadband landscape in the UK, gathering opinions from broadband users around the country to find out how they feel about key aspects of their services.

With the recent launch of the 2015 Home Broadband Survey we now have four years of data to draw upon, showing how broadband has changed and developed over that time.

The survey asks broadband users to rank their provider in four areas – customer service, technical support, speed satisfaction and reliability. Finally, we ask everyone whether they would recommend their provider to others.

For each question there are two positive responses, two negative and one neutral. The survey results are based on the combination of the positive responses.

The ISPs included in the survey has varied slightly from year to year as providers come and go so when looking back at all the data we’ve focused on the five that have always been covered: BT, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

Customer service

Two things immediately stand out when looking at the responses for customer service since 2012. First is that Plusnet generally excels in this area. Despite starting off comparatively poorly in 2012 with only 60% approval, it has since then towered above the other ISPs and showed the biggest improvement overall, scoring 78% in the 2015 survey. It was also the only provider to improve in 2013 when every other ISP dropped slightly. It would seem that Plusnet’s focus on its 24/7 UK based support has been paying off.

The second thing that stands out is that TalkTalk lags way behind the pack. It has the lowest ever score of 47% in 2013, and has consistently been behind all the other providers here.

Customer service is a weak area for many ISPs, which they have acknowledged in the past. But there is a general upward trend with the average moving from 62% in 2012 to 69% in 2015.

Technical support

A common complaint for many broadband users is poor technical support and it’s not surprising to find that this seems linked to general customer service, with roughly similar positions for the ISPs in relation to each other. Plusnet is again a consistent winner – though the gulf isn’t as wide this time – and TalkTalk is also the weakest performer here.

Unfortunately this is something that needs more work than customer service from all providers. The highest score for any ISP in any of our surveys is 71%, and the overall average is quite low, moving only 56% in 2012 to just 65% in 2015.

Reliability

It doesn’t seem that broadband reliability is a big issue for us here in the UK. The average was 72% approval in 2012 moving to 78% this year, most providers are receiving scores over 70% and there isn’t, with some exceptions, a big variation in rankings over the past four years.

BT did receive the lowest reliability rating of the five ISPs in 2013, scoring just 58%, but in 2014 that leapt up to 77%.

Speed satisfaction

Virgin generally does well in this category, which shouldn’t come as a shock given that it has put a lot of money and effort into upgrading the performance of cable broadband, and has ranked about 10% above the average each year.

Most of the other providers – which all use the BT Openreach network – have gradually improved since 2012, which we’d put down to the rollout of fibre optic which means much of the UK now has access to speeds up to 76Mb. Only Plusnet has seen a slight drop in rankings.

This is a nebulous question as we’re not getting data on the actual performance of broadband connections but asking users how they feel about it, but we do also examine speed test data as a separate part of the survey. Virgin Media has been the clear winner every time, often with results that are twice as fast as the next provider.

As the test methodology has changed since 2012 a direct comparison of speed tests wouldn’t be fair, but there has been an increase in average broadband speeds every year which lines up with the regularly updated OFCOM data.

Would you recommend your provider?

We think that whether or not you’d recommend your ISP to friends and family says a lot about the overall experience, and comparing the four years of data brings to light some interesting results.

In 2012 there was a 70% positive response to this question, and in 2015 there was…a 70% positive response. It did fall slightly in 2013 (a year in which almost all providers fell in most categories) and rose again in 2014, but this is the only area where the average shows little to no improvement. All the ISPs received much the same score this year that they did four years ago.

In one way these results aren’t bad. Only TalkTalk came in below 70%, and having the majority of your customers generally happy with the service isn’t terrible.

But another way to look at it is that despite all the additional investment in coverage and speed and improvements to customer service, many of us aren’t that much more satisfied with the service we’re getting now than we were four years ago.

 

Matt PowellMatt Powell is the editor for the broadband and mobile broadband comparison website BroadbandGenie.co.uk. He has written for numerous print and online publications including PC Home, Windows Made Easy, GigaHz and MSN UK.


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