Broadband speeds and prices often rule the headlines but other important factors which affect your broadband experience are frequently forgotten. When you run a speed test or register on our website, we ask you to rate your service provider, in particular, their customer service and reliability.
We have gathered over 500,000 ratings over the last year, giving a unique insight into the services offered by broadband service providers in the UK.
For the purpose of this analysis, we have ignored mobile broadband ratings as we only started measuring these quite late in the year so have not gathered enough data to allow us to draw meaningful conclusions
The fixed-line broadband service providers were split into two groups based on the number of ratings. This assists us in making a fair comparison against similar sample sizes, but also allows us to take a look at each end of the market. We have not provided any ISP-specific data for those with less than 2,000 ratings on the basis that it would be difficult to draw fair conclusions, however they are included in the overall results.
All the tables below are ordered by rank based on customer service. We have also included reliability ratings as a useful comparison.
|Service Provider||Customer Service||Reliability|
|O2 (O2 Group)||79%||(20,990)||72%||(21,227)|
|Be Unlimited (O2 Group)||71%||(13,846)||70%||(14,676)|
|PlusNet (BT Group)||67%||(13,893)||69%||(14,857)|
|Sky (BSkyB Group)||50%||(37,021)||56%||(39,309)|
|BT (BT Group)||41%||(76,826)||53%||(80,942)|
|TalkTalk (CPW Group)||39%||(32,896)||45%||(34,714)|
|AOL (CPW Group)||35%||(32,785)||41%||(33,917)|
|Pipex (Tiscali Group)||35%||(13,260)||49%||(14,336)|
Note that for the purpose of this table, a rating of 1 to 5 stars translates into a rating
percentage score of 0 to 100% in 25% increments.
It would be fair to say that O2's performance is exceptional for an ISP of its size, and taking the top two positions with its Be Unlimited brand shows it is clearly getting the service mix right. We suspect O2's dominance over Be relates to its use of UK-based call centres where as Be Unlimited's support staff are based in Bulgaria, but both scores are worthy of merit.
PlusNet follows relatively close in third position leaving the rest of the large operators significantly behind. It is particularly worth noting that PlusNet's reliability rating is only marginally behind Be Unlimited.
"This is a fantastic endorsement of the focus we've had at O2 on the customer experience. In the relatively short space of time since we launched, we have firmly established O2 Home Broadband as the quality player in the UK market."Peter Rampling, Marketing Director, Telefónica O2 UK
|Service Provider||Customer Service||Reliability|
|UK Online (BSkyB Group)||69%||(2,273)||69%||(2,437)|
|Madasafish (part of PlusNet/BT Group)||65%||(3,545)||69%||(3,731)|
|Eclipse (KCom Group)||59%||(7,744)||60%||(8,468)|
|Nildram (Tiscali Group)||55%||(5,588)||59%||(6,643)|
|F2S (Tiscali Group)||55%||(6,603)||59%||(7,184)|
|Demon (Thus/C&W Group)||45%||(7,124)||60%||(7,851)|
|Karoo (KCom Group)||45%||(2,276)||47%||(2,358)|
|Bulldog (Tiscali Group)||36%||(2,304)||53%||(2,444)|
The Niche operators group consists of providers with less than 10,000 ratings and places IDNet at the top of the list with an impressive 87% customer satisfaction rating. Very close behind is Zen Internet, long held to be a reliable medium sized provider which achieved the highest reliability rating in the survey, although IDNet, NewNet and Entanet were all very close. Even UK Online and Madasafish are well above industry average.
It is important to note in comparing smaller providers that the sample sizes are significantly weaker and thus the margin of error is higher. We feel however that it is important to be inclusive and focus away from just the top 10 broadband providers.
Madasafish is operationally part of PlusNet although its support remains separate in South Africa and its 65/69% score matched quite well against PlusNet's 67/69%. This may indicate the strong english language skills of support agents in other english speaking countries are a significant advantage in outsourcing support. UK Online became part of the BSkyB Group when it purchased Easynet and is targeting the 'pro-sumer' and soho/small business market. It is performing markedly better than its Sky Broadband parent, but that would be expected since it is a more 'niche' provider.
"We are humbled that our customers have rated us so highly. We fully appreciate that there are plenty of cheaper ISPs to choose from. We put all our energy into striving to provide a high quality service and, by delivering that, we can offer our customers better value-for-money than our larger, price-driven competitors. The large providers have to focus on economies of scale whereas smaller, niche providers can concentrate on satisfying the requirements of the more demanding customer."Simon Davies, Director, IDNet
Due to consolidation in the industry, we are now seeing larger ISP groups even though they often retain separate brands or in some cases, separate network operations or customer support centres. Analysing these groups has provided a useful insight into the business models each operates:
|O2 Group (O2, Be Unlimited)||76%||(34,836)||71%||(35,903)|
|KCom Group (Eclipse, Karoo, Mistral)||56%||(10,890)||57%||(11,727)|
|BSkyB (Sky Broadband, UK Online, Easynet)||51%||(39,449)||57%||(41,905)|
|BT Group (BT Broadband, PlusNet, Madasafish)||46%||(94,264)||56%||(99,530)|
|Tiscali Group (Tiscali, Pipex, Nildram, Freedom2surf/f2s, Bulldog)||38%||(74,124)||49%||(79,402)|
|CPW Group (AOL, TalkTalk)||37%||(65,681)||43%||(68,631)|
Company groups may also include smaller brands not listed above so results may vary slightly.
BT Group's average result are in line with the average of the 'independent' providers not included in any company group.
Significantly, both Tiscali and Carphone Warehouse appear to be performing below average. CPW company TalkTalk was one of the pioneers of low cost broadband with its 'free broadband' (when you pay them £9.99 for the phone line) offer back in 2006.
So, is small beautiful?
Are smaller providers better than larger ones? Or do their users just feel they are part of a more exclusive club? It's hard to say for sure. We have no doubt that smaller providers can provide a more bespoke service and that because larger providers will have more unhappy customers (due to the law of averages), they might be more vocal.
This survey clearly shows that smaller providers have their place within the broadband market, albeit mostly as a niche product for those looking for something a bit more complicated like a range of routed public IP addresses. Similarly it dispels the myth that mainstream operators cannot compete on customer service, as O2 have well shown. This does not of course address 'value for money' - The reliability scores indicate that some may be prepared to put up with more hassles as long as their broadband connections work without intervention most of the time.
We have provided some useful analysis of the average ratings by size of ISP:
(5,000 - 10,000 ratings)
(2,000 to 5,000 ratings)
(less than 2,000 ratings)
Users can rate one or both categories and the samples are therefore quoted separately for customer service and reliability. Ratings can be filled in either by signing up to the site and providing us with ISP details, or by carrying out a speed test and then rating the provider. All ratings are from 1 star (very poor) to 5 stars (very good) which are converted into percentages from 0% through to 100% in 25% increments (one star being equal to zero as it is the lowest rating). These ratings are for the period 01/01/2008 to 31/12/2008.