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Broadband Customer Ratings 2008
Wednesday 18 March 2009 11:26:24 by Sebastien Lahtinen

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

Key conclusions

  • O2 / Be Unlimited top the ratings for large providers followed closely by PlusNet.
  • IDNet and Zen Internet lead the niche category.
  • In general, users' perception is that small and medium sized providers provide better customer service and reliability, although both groups have their range of good and bad apples.
  • Larger operators with lower customer service scores still often rate better on reliability

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.

Large ISPs

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)
Virgin Media 44% (107,367) 55% (112,367)
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)
Tiscali 34% (46,369) 46% (48,795)
Orange 33% (41,575) 43% (43,540)

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

 

Niche ISPs

Service Provider Customer Service Reliability
IDNet 87% (3,035) 82% (3,129)
Zen Internet 84% (8,328) 83% (8,884)
NewNet 79% (2,359) 80% (2,554)
Entanet 77% (5,152) 78% (5,509)
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)
Supanet 29% (2,447) 39% (2,603)

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

Groups

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:

Group Customer Service Reliability
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.

Size Comparisons

We have provided some useful analysis of the average ratings by size of ISP:

Group Customer Service Reliability
Large
(10,000+ ratings)
44% (436,828) 52% (458,680)
Medium
(5,000 - 10,000 ratings)
63% (40,539) 66% (44,539)
Small
(2,000 to 5,000 ratings)
60% (18,239) 64% (19,256)
Very Small
(less than 2,000 ratings)
62% (9,593) 63% (10,014)
Average Rating 46% (505,199) 54% (532,489)

Methodology

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.

Comments

Posted by baby_frogmella over 7 years ago
Shame my teeny weeny Entanet L2TP ISP is not on the niche list...it is as good as IDNET/Zen/Newnet (if not better) at a fraction of the price; a truly unlimited (yes really!) 8128/832kbps connection for only £35 pm. Beat that!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
Entanet the group is on the list @77%
Posted by john2007 over 7 years ago
It would be interesting if a similar analysis could be done comparing the LLU and non-LLU parts of ISPs.

e.g. perhaps those on O2 Access respond differently to those on O2 LLU.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
@baby_frogmella - teeny weeny ISPs wouldn't get enough ratings to be on the list.. We want to be inclusive but we need a decent sample. You don't pick those ISPs from ratings but recommendation really - This is in no way a criticism of any ISP not appearing on the list.

@john2007 - Some people don't know if they are on LLU or not.. You'd get quite a bit of errors I suspect.
Posted by kamelion over 7 years ago
Would be interesting to compare F2S and Nildram Before and after eing swallowed by Tiscali. Does TBB have those figures?
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@baby_frogmella:I have a truly unlimited 14Mb/1Mb connection from BeThere for £17.50. Beat that :)
Posted by tcrooks3843 over 7 years ago
Whilst appreciating the intentions of this analysis the rating system is so coarse as to be misleading. The margins are just too wide to be of value.

I rate my ISP as 4 stars on both customer service and reliability because it would mislead to rate the ISP at 100% when I take the view that customer service is about 90% and reliability is 95%. In another monthly survey that uses percentages that is how I rate the ISP.
Posted by baby_frogmella over 7 years ago
@AndrueC: i was talking about a BT IPstream connection, not a LLU connection (>8mbp download speeds). My point was that to get a truly unlimited 8mbps connection with a top quality ISP (eg Zen, IDNET etc) you have to pay more than £50pm whereas i am only paying £35pm with an Entanet L2TP ISP...and i get top speeds 24/7 :)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
Question is less whether the rating system is too course, more that has it produced a result that most people would agree with.

If the voting system was flawed you would expect to see some providers in positions that were unexpected.

Relative positions from our past results analysis bear out this news today, and show similar rankings compared with other places that have over the last year or so published the info.
Posted by John_Gray over 7 years ago
If my Virgin Media cable connection doesn't have a problem, which is the usual situation, presumably that means 100% for Reliability - but what do I put for Customer Service? 0%? 100%?

If something goes wrong, that's the only time you experience customer service, which can be pretty dire, and the reliability is then 0%.

So I reckon the survey must be pretty meaningless!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Excellent write up Seb a very intersting read.

Quote Andrew"Question is less whether the rating system is too course, more that has it produced a result that most people would agree with."

For me personally the results are pretty much what i expected, it seems most people mark their ISP honestly :) If you look at the various sections and take the top 3 or 5 and the bottom 3 or 5 (depending on section) it speaks volumes about who is good and who is bad.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
Where people have no opinion on a category we have not counted that in the final figures, i.e. no answer is simply no answer. Just like dropping an empty ballot paper into the ballot box makes no difference to the outcome.

Customer Service covers more than just support, since we all usually pay our bills monthly this will act as your contact with an ISP even if you have no problems. Plus the better ISP's will be more pro-active in terms of newsletters etc
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Quote John_Gray"If something goes wrong, that's the only time you experience customer service, which can be pretty dire, and the reliability is then 0%.
So I reckon the survey must be pretty meaningless!"

Errr surely that makes the customer service mark accurate? If its bad and you mark it a zero or one the overall average mark for the ISP will be accurate will it not? ...CONT...
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
I see your point... If you havent experienced customer support theres no way to say if its good or bad, IMO the sensible thing for that month is to vote with a middle score of 3/5 which is average, the people that have experienced it will either be happy and mark a 4/5 out of 5 and those unhappy will mark a 0/1 out of 5 the majority of happy or unhappy votes would then tip that mark above or below 3/5 resulting in a good average figure.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
The marking system will never be perfect, some no matter who their ISP will always think its great or poor which skews the ratings to a degree, but as a overall average their votes get balanced out in most cases. I dunno about others but from the various charts things are about what i expect and placings for the most part are pretty much what they would be if i had to guess
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Hmmm thanks to Andrew for that additional info also, i did not know you could leave some voting blank and it would be disregarded. If thats the case then the even more accurate thing to do is just not vote with regards to support figure.
Posted by ETEE over 7 years ago
I'm surprised at the very low ratings for TT. Reliability cannot really be that low or else they would be losing customers like Tiscali and Orange. Still perhaps my good experience is unusual!
Posted by rabbit80 over 7 years ago
The problem here is that this survey is now out of date! If you were to ask O2 access customers what they thought about the service this year, then O2 would be bottom of the pile! An oversubscribed service with the lowest speeds in the UK, No refunds or free months for most people (with customer services being inconsistent), different stories from technical support depending who you speak to, no ideas how long the problems would go on for (though we now know its till mid April),over moderated forums - the list of O2 problems for the past 8 weeks is appauling!
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
How is an isp categorised as large? I am very surprised BE is considered a large isp especially as some people claim they have a very small amount of customers. Maybe BE has a lot more customers than some people have claimed.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
I see its less than 10000 ratings sorry for the question. Good point made that its now out of date this would have been better in january.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
is there going to be an analysis of the speed scores?
Posted by timmay over 7 years ago
How the hell are O2 still top!?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
http://www.thinkbroadband.com/isp/compare.html

Allows people to see the results month on month. Taken a while to crunch the numbers and be confident in the numbers.

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/i/3168.html could be interesting showing how little has changed over time perhaps
Posted by David-Park over 7 years ago
With Be LLU and I very happy with them.
Interesting about the different Support centers of O2, bet they use same at some piont in future. So both end up abroad or in UK.
Posted by tcrooks3843 over 7 years ago
Andrew, I suspect that amongst your contributors to the survey are one or more statisticians. I wonder if they would comment on your methodology and the resulting analysis.

If the results were other than you had expected I dare say that you would have spent time trying to understand why that should be? 25% spans almost from PlusNet to TalkTalk on Customer Service. So are they essentially of equal rank?
Posted by KarlAustin over 7 years ago
I'm guessing half the people couldn't get online to rate Entanet reliability as poor. Their "redundant" network is anything but (ask anyone on the Sheffield or Nottingham IPSC nodes).

Having moved to Plusnet I'd not rate Enta above Plusnet in terms of reliability - since I moved Enta have had two more IPSC outages (granted, at different nodes) and the latency for the last 2 weeks with Enta was so bad as to render VoIP unusable, except for a rare 5 minute period here and there.
Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
We used to do 1-10 before but we need to keep things simple.. stars are common - I don't have a huge issue changing how we do this as long as it's easy for users to use.. we're revising various parts of the site so might be able to do it in that.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
My daughter on Idnet and never has a dropout and happy with the service, £14.99 a month but they don't use much bandwidth, just use emails facebook and skype mainly.
Her previous two ISPs could not keep a connection for her, she was offline more than on. Customer support is absolutely fantastic.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"We used to do 1-10 before but we need to keep things simple.. stars are common - I don't have a huge issue changing how we do this as long as it's easy for users to use.. we're revising various parts of the site so might be able to do it in that."

How about keeping the rating system as it is but also adding a comments box people can fill in each month. That way when you or other staff compile charts of yearly figures you can also mention what some of the major and minor complaints of all the ISPs are and what are things people tend to like in mass from their ISP.
Posted by Bulgaria over 7 years ago
I am somewhat disappointed to see the following comment "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". What conceivable relevance does this "suspicion" have with the ratings? If you are going to post such comments why not mention the fact that other broadband providers have their support staff in India, Phillipines, Malaysia and Ireland!Best you keep to facts rather than suspicions!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ Kinda agree with that, i suspect O2 have grabbed a fair share as they are more heard of than bethere, atleast to the ordinary joe bloggs anyway. Couple that with all the mobile subscribers they have and the probable ton of 'buy our cheap broadband litrature' they have sent them and it makes sense why they have done so well
Posted by nqsenile over 7 years ago
It would be very interesting to see a comparison "Value for money". Perhaps you could incorporate one in the next survey. Or, even better, as an appendix to this. Wad ya tink ?
Posted by baddog over 7 years ago
I moved to the O2 from a much dearer capped Vivaciti/Entanet product, when my speeds dropped to almost that of dial-up,and support was just about non-existant.
I can see why O2 are top, they have excellent support, they are uncapped and speeds are always very good. All this for £12.23 a month! :-)
They have no 'traffic steering' - I use BitTorrent and it works at all times, unlike when I was with Tiscali.
They supposedly have a 'Fair Use Policy', but I use massive amounts (I use BitTorrent) without any problems. An excellent ISP!
Posted by chasbetts over 7 years ago
I agree with baddog re O2. £12.23 a month using copper BT line (Moorhill exchange 2 miles away) and my Speedtest.net result measured over 9 month period is better than 91% of global rank and 96% of uk ranking. I'm running nothing special .. XP + Netgear router and no tweaking.
Posted by Keithbecca over 7 years ago
I am with Tiscali and have had excellent service over the past year. All phonecalls all the time included, plus line rental. Average download speed over the year 5551Kbps(5400 to 6050)uncapped downloads. All for £19.56 / month.
Posted by billsign over 7 years ago
Does anyone know whether there is any separation of figures for Virgin/adsl and Virgin/cable.
I am on Virgin/adsl and pay for up 8 MBS but after several years am only getting 2MBS at best.
Anyone any suggestions
Billsign
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ Thats a good point billsign, in fact can BT based Virgin customers even mark seperate to PURE virgin cable customers on here?? If not maybe that could be introduced to give a clear reading which of their 2 services are better (though i suspect we all know it would be nice to compare the two).
Posted by stduc over 7 years ago
Its all a bit subjective. My Dad gets 256k & is delighted! LOL. If you needed no service how do you rate it? A value for money rating might be a good idea too.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
I suspect those that have slow speeds and/or hardly use their connection rarely notice issues and probably wouldnt mark here anyway.

A value for money rating sounds good in theory, just as long as it doesnt skew other results, none of us want to join an ISP that comes out near the top just cos its cheap but ultimately is a terrible service.
Posted by Oddball over 7 years ago
The O2 result may be a bit lopsided due to it detecting me as being on O2 whenever I do the speed test. I am not. I am with Be. I suspect SOME speedtests are juck clicked through with the default ISP that the speedtest detects. This makes it less reliable for O2/Be IMHO.
Posted by dsf58 over 7 years ago
It would be interesting to compare "reported speed" tests with the "potential speed" tests on so many of the suppliers' Sales Sites. Who provides the highest percentage of the claimed potential?
Posted by dsf58 over 7 years ago
I would also like to the ratings (Customer Service?) to reflect positively on those who offer short contracts. Being able to walk away if there is too much agro offers a lot of reassurance. But then are the short contract suppliers better anyway?
Posted by croelann over 6 years ago
Nice :)


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