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Customer service downturn since April 2006
Tuesday 14 November 2006 13:52:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Measuring customer satisfaction and other metrics with a service provider is difficult, but when comparing providers and deciding who to sign up with some degree of comparison is needed. Every month we allow people to score their ISP on its level of customer service, reliability and speed experience (see here to vote). Those who are voting now should consider their experience during the month of October 2006, with the results being published in December 2006.

The table below shows the Customer Service ratings in April 2006 and September 2006 for ten key medium and large broadband service providers in the UK. The order is based on figures from June 2006, with the addition of Talk Talk who have grown rapidly in size since June. If your provider is not listed you can compare it to up to five others using the comparison tool.

Broadband Provider

Customer Service April 2006

Customer Service September 2006

Change

BT Broadband (BT Retail) 59% 50% -9
NTL 51% 51% 0
AOL 54% 49% -5
Telewest 68% 67% -1
Tiscali 47% 43% -4
Orange 51% 46% -5
Talk Talk 44% 32% -12
Pipex 59% 45% -14
Plusnet 63% 53% -10
Virgin.net 62% 48% -14

It is disappointing to see that apart from NTL who has maintained the same rating, every other provider has seen a drop averaging 7% across all ten providers for the customer service rating. We suspect that the rapid move of customers to unbundled products, along with the adoption of rate adaptive up to 8Mbps ADSL services by most of the providers listed is a key reason for the drop in scores. Of course NTL and Telewest are not affected by unbundling or rate adaption, which may explain their relatively static scores. We received over 61,000 ratings in April and over 65,000 in September for the ten providers listed. You can see the monthly ratings for these providers here and here. Looking at the trend over a few months can reveal whether a providers ratings are decreasing, or have started to improve once again.

It is possible that the continuing decrease in broadband pricing over the last three years has lead many service providers to outsource its support services in an effort to lower its costs. When these are moved outside of the UK, a lot of knowledge is immediately lost as call centre staff can no longer relate to the customers' issues in the same way from their own experience of broadband at home. With new price cuts on their way from BT Wholesale, perhaps some of the providers will use the cost savings to improve support standards, not just statistics but the actual customer service experience. In other words, don't just improve the call answer rate by promising call backs several days later, but actually commit to providing real help on that very first phone call.

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