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Why do big broadband providers keep failing on service?  

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Our latest broadband satisfaction survey shows the biggest providers are consistently failing their customers on service. Why do these providers rank lowest and why do consumers continue to stand for it?

Today, we’ve released our latest results on customer satisfaction with broadband providers. The fact that it paints the same story as so many of our previous surveys is very telling; the bigger providers fall down on customer service.

For the fifth consecutive survey running, TalkTalk customers have given them the lowest customer score of 40% and Sky experienced the biggest drop of all of the providers since our last survey in April.

Best and worst broadband providers

Choosing provider

Why then, do consumers continue to choose these providers?

I would suggest they go with bigger providers for a number of reasons; reliability, convenience and choice.

On reliability, I think people can be prone to conflate a ‘well-known’ brand with a ‘trusted’ brand. Research like our surveys can hopefully dispel that.

On convenience, bundling packages could have more of an influence in your choice of provider than the broadband service itself.

A third reason is that there can be a lack of choice. In some areas where there is little or no infrastructure deployment, bigger providers may be the only option on offer.

Change needed

If providers continue to recruit and retain customers then there is little incentive for them to change their practice.

We have long argued that the switching process should be easier – both assisting consumers in moving to a new provider but applying pressure to providers to step up in order to retain their customers.


We’d like to hear from you. Why do you think the biggest providers continually come bottom of our satisfaction tables? And what do you think needs to happen to for them to step up and deliver?

Comments
Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

I see Zen gets top marks but take into account Zen has nowhere near the same customer base than BT/SKY/Virgin etc therefore that skews the figures and that their customers arent those with long country runs of copper as they use BT lines not their own and their own literature say that it depends on distance as to speed etc the same as BT et al- what they do offer seems to be better service /fixed IP /UK customer help base and other benefits . On that score yes I have to admit they are better but just to say they provide an actual better speed/ reliability when they use BT lines doesn’t hold water as all external lines , except VM and some small companies usually London based , use BT lines so unless they use some magic of some sort distance and reliability is still in Openreach,s hands . I am afraid if they are being advertised as “God,s answer ” to rural customers well it isn’t the case . I am not condemning them only saying statistics can lie if not judged in perspective . That small shop in the village can offer excellent service but only to a relatively small area . The only way they can really be judged if their customer base takes in all the negative aspects of the rural phone dwellers .

Member
Bill Kerr-Smith says:
23 September 2017

I absolutely agree with Duncan Lewis. I switched to Zen, after seeing the recommendation in Which?, in January. Since then, I have been constantly disappointed with the service, which fails completely at least once a week, usually at peak times, and at other times drops off badly, with serious latency issues. As the (BT) local distribution network has been upgraded to Fibre-to-the-Cabinet, I assumed the problems were with the router (which I bought from Zen) or with their backhaul provision. Two weeks ago, they finally agreed to replace the router. There is some improvement in service, but still the peak time problems. I cannot fault the helpfulness or courtesy of the tech support people, but I have spent hours on the phone to them, trying all manner of re-configurations of the router, factory re-setting and throttling my upload speeds (one suggestion was that my upload was preventing speedy downloads – there was no noticeable change after I put the brakes on).
We’re not exactly rural here, being in Dalkeith, the largest town in the fastest growing county in Scotland, so my conclusion is that Zen simply hasn’t engineered it’s backbone network to cope with demand outside major cities.

Member
keirfree says:
23 September 2017

I too joined ZEN, on the Basis of the Which Recommendation, I had many problems with a continuous broadband service for months, only after hours of , phoning their support desk, ( in my opinion) not knowledgeable, visit from a B T Engineer, a router swop out, did they, accept the fact that their bad service, was nothing to do with my internal wiring, distances from my local telephone exchange etc, or any of the other <> !!
P S they did admit they are no longer using ZyXEL Router, as it takes to long to reboot, appx 1 minute in my experience. After the long awaited intervention of a Zen ( expert ) was my problem reduced to an acceptable level of service. Value for money ? not in my opinion!

Profile photo of Colum McGuire
Member

Hi @Bill Kerr-Smith and @keirfree,

I just wanted to pick up on your comments regarding Zen Internet. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing some problems with their service.

I thought it would be useful to explain how we get the results we publish and what our recommendations are based on. The key thing to note is that our recommendation for service providers is based on our survey results which is completed by more than 10,000 customers. Before being considered for a Which? Recommended Provider, providers are required to achieve a minimum customer satisfaction score of 70%. Customer satisfaction score is based on ‘how likely the customer is to recommend the service to a friend or family member’. When this criteria is met, we’ll then review the providers price and tariffs to make sure they are reasonable.

We appreciate that not all customers would experience the same level of service and broadband speed from the providers, however, in our most recent broadband survey results; Zen internet did achieve 92% for their Customer satisfaction score. This was a pretty impressive score that put them at the top of our table. If you’re interested, you can read our survey and the results here – http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/broadband-deals/article/best-broadband-providers.

Interestingly, it sounds like the problems you’re experiencing are symptomatic of being part of Openreach’s network, as opposed to the provider’s service. That’s definitely something that is on our radar at the moment and we’re keen to look into. So thank you for commenting and giving us that insight!

Colum.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

I suspect much of Sky’s low rating is a historical view as there was a time when their customer service was the direst of the dire. We have been a satellite customer for over 20 years, then my o2 broadband was migrated to them.

I do think their customer service has improved a lot in the last few years. You no longer have to go through a bang-your-head-against-a-brick-wall exercise to fight a first line defence to talk to someone who might actually be able to help you.

A recent internet problem was sorted out reasonably well and they did send out an engineer who fixed the problem.

Sky routers do have a problem with Wi-Fi. We still had a connection out in the garden with an o2 router, but it struggles in the same room with the Sky router.

But Sky is let down by greed. They want you to have the whole package: satellite TV, phone and broadband and where they fall down badly is not letting you update any part of your package without updating and having the whole lot. Our phone is with BT.

When we had a problem with the internet I tried to update it to fibre. But I couldn’t have fibre unless I switched the phone to them, and we would be without phone and internet for at least a week which was completely unacceptable.

We enquired about upgrading to Sky Q but we can’t upgrade without switching our phone to them…..grrr

Another problem is the phone and TV is in my husband’s name, and the broadband in my name. They refuse to connect the accounts or put them both in the same name without taking out new contracts. Why should we have to enter new contracts with a company we have been customers of for years? I hate being forced into contracts especially when I have been a customer for so long.

So because of their greed, we have an inferior service that we are paying too much for because we don’t get a discount for having more than one product even though they promised the accounts would be linked when my broadband was migrated to them.

Sky are also losing out because if we could have upgraded the bits we wanted when we wanted, they would be getting more money out of us and we would have been happy customers.

The only reason we have stayed with Sky is their satellite TV which was excellent. But that is no longer the case.

We only have 3 series recording at the moment, Zoo, Colony and The Last Ship. We used to record so many series, we couldn’t keep up and they were queued up for the summer when most of them had a rest. But new series are not making their way to Sky, they are only available via Amazon or Netflix. TV & Satellite Weekly lists all the new series for the week, but most of them are not available on Sky. I was gutted when I found out the new Star Trek series was not going to be shown.

So why would we want to upgrade our broadband and get into a new contract with a company that no longer delivers?

If we do update our broadband, it won’t be with Sky, and if we get fibre we will no longer need satellite TV and that will be a great shame.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

You have given me much info into the internal workings of Sky Alfa thanks. They are not alone in that if you want additional services you have to automatically re-contract BT do that as well . If I take out BT TV/their cell-net deal /etc it involves a contract for a year or so , at the moment I am out of contract and BT is shooting emails + snail mails to me nearly daily . Both my phone+broadband are with BT , they were very helpful when FTTC appeared and I was one of the first to get it so I cant complain on that score BT aren’t perfect but —in my view –they are not the worst by a long chalk . They don’t hold you to ransom like some , I have watched posters point bout all the chidden defects of those – “oh so wonderful ” alternatives to BT and then —after some years the penny drops.

Profile photo of Ian
Member

We watch the same things, Alfa. Although Zoo seems increasingly riddled with logic issues…

And you’re spot on re: sky. They offered to supply us with two new Q boxes and do the installation for nowt the other day, as I was ringing up to replace a defective Sky HD+ box. Trouble is, they don’t teach their staff too well. Sky Q is 2TB, whereas we have two 2xTB boxes and, as I pointed out, that adds up to 4Tb. Going to Q would be effectively downgrading.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

I’m sure some of these sci-fi series are made up as they go along Ian.

Do you also think quality and availability of new content has gone downhill?

Profile photo of Ian
Member

On the first point, they certainly are, Alfa, because the way the system works in the States dictates that show runners don’t know until almost the last minute if they’ll be working the following year.

My better half and I were discussing this last night. Grimm was outstanding, in our view, and cancelled for no good reason. West Wing was another excellent series, as was Stargate, but for every great series there’s a morass of doss. But I suppose that simply reflects the state of products in the world, anyway.

Member
Chris Goddard says:
23 September 2017

I have just cancelled my TV sky contract, well I actually did that in April. But that is another story! Anyway, as I say I have cancelled the sky TV service. But have kept the telephone and Fibre Broadband service. I have also told Kevin the sky customer service person that I WILL be moving to a new broadband supplier asap. Again, nothing about having to keep one service over another? So I should go back to sky and tell them what you wish to do. Please do contact me if you wish for any more info.

Chris

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Chris if you are moving to a new broadband supplier then how are you able to keep Sky phone services ? most basic bundles include the rental for the line (not separately charged ) , BT does this now . What ISP is going to allow you to use Sky or why do you think Sky will allow you line only ? If I have picked you up wrong please elucidate ?

Member
Chris Goddard says:
26 September 2017

Hello Duncan, good question! One I asked myself and not something I had really thought about. However I cancelled my NEW contract with sky for the new FIBRE broadband with speeds of UP to 75mbps?? And as I am on the old fibre at UP to 25mbps and am getting good ness alone knows what actual speed. But put it like this? I get buffering all day, but more usually around T-time 1700 to 1900. But I also get this at the really busy Tims of day too, like 0300?. And dropping out? That is enough to make a Vicar swear! But to get back to the point in question, when I assured KEVIN (The American at sky customer services) of the fact I was going to change my Broadband but wanted to keep the same telephone package. He did not figuratively speaking mention any5hing untoward? Perhaps he didn’t believe me when I said he was not the object of my ire in cancelling said contract??

But do indeed appreciate your input my friend! Incidentally, is it possible to obtain broadband by actual fibre?? I only as as we are in possession of a cable entry as well as the copper telephone line? Or like we had in our old property, two telephone lines? One a residential number and the other a business and dial up internet line? Albeit that was several years ago! 👍

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Interesting Chris – if ,at other times on the old fibre , which ISP,s class as “bundles ” now you r speed was adequate until certain times of day that is a classic case of fibre congestion -ie- the fibre cable is near its limit /or equipment as young people ( or even older ones ) are using it for games/social media/downloading films/etc . Unless they are intentionally restricting your bandwidth due to your lower end bundle , telling you you will get “better ” service from the dearer one is not possible unless they use different exchange equipment methods as you will still be on the same fibre so nothing physically has changed . What ISP,s are obliged to do now is if you bare below the lower limits of your bundle constantly you can tell them they are not complying with your contract and leave them free of charge. But getting you onto a new contract is every ISP,s dream because it means you are held with them for a year or more. THats any contract vwith them -TV/Phone/broadband / -ie – any change to your basic contract is looked on as a NEW contract with them. New contracts can (and do ) have new conditions which should be read carefully , promises over the phone in advertising lingo don’t count .What I think you are asking Chris is can you get a separate line using fibre , well it is technically possible but whether your ISP would do it depends on if you are running a business , if it was FTTP there are ways of getting two separate telephone lines but again that’s up to your ISP., you wont get that on copper alone unless another copper line was put in . That can be done but its a full installation cost.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I am happy with John Lewis Broadband (Plusnet of course). They are easy to contact with a problem and quick to respond, whether by phone or through my account. My only complaint has been that very occasionally, towards the end of the monthly subscription, I get a message that the included Bullguard subscription has expired. This worries me, but it recovers in a day. I am told by JL BB that even when it has “expired” it is still active……..

Member
Alison Dawson says:
22 September 2017

We changed to Virgin ( getting a TV, phone, broadband package for the first time) when cable was installed along our road. We were with BT before and never had problems. Virgin has been a nightmare from the start. We were losing connection for perhaps five or ten minutes at least twenty times a day. We’ve had a terchnician out to the roadside box several times. Eventually they decided it was connected up to our property incorrectly. Problem solved for a few weeks but then back to square one – and round we go. We can’t wait for our contract to end! On the plus side their customer service is superb. The staff on the phone always helpful and as I mentioned the tech has been out several times to try and sort us out.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Alison – I hope you still have your overhead wiring if you plan to go back to BT or another as VM are a cable company and you have transferred your phone+ broadband to them . You will have lost your underground network connection all the way from your DP ( pole or box ) -distribution box through your cabinet to the exchange plus your exchange equipment , if that was FTTC you will have lost that quickly . This will /or might incur FULL installation charges taking into account if you have removed BT,s cable to the Master socket as well . Check this out with BT sales first . By the way BT TV is getting better media coverage , Alfa (above ) has just posted a critique on Sky media which VM uses.

Profile photo of Colum McGuire
Member

Alison, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a poor experience since switching. It’s always really disappointing when you put the time and energy into switching provider (which is hardly an easy thing to do!) to find that the green isn’t greener.

It’s great to hear that the customer service has been supportive, but perhaps you might want to think about your rights if you’re getting a poor service. You say you can’t wait for your contract to end, but if your provider hasn’t been delivering the service it promised, you might be able to leave your contract when you like and without penalty, should you wish to.

Check out our consumer rights page on broadband for more info: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/broadband-phone-and-tv

Member

Ordered broadband from the BT group back in July. Still waiting. Sold it as being available in 2-3 weeks. After 2 months I am being told the lead time is 4-6. Is this super fast broadband?

Member

Just tried your broadband speed checker.
Its confusing me.
Why do the results seem to be in different measures than the provider comparison table?
results:
175ms response time
4.4Mbs download speed
3.1Mbs upload speed
provider comparison:
Advertised speed (Mbps)
Download speed (Mbps)
how do I use these figures?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Steve – 175 ms is a long response time depending on a lot of factors . But in this case it will be measuring the server response time which, IF it is in the USA it is typical . I think Which,s server is there . Some testers give you a choice of local servers in which case ping time should be much smaller. As regards your speed that is up to distance and line conditions as well as your home equipment internal wiring etc etc. . 4.4 Mbps download speed would put you a medium distance from your local cabinet on copper or a long distance on FTTC.

Profile photo of Colum McGuire
Member

Hi Steve. The research we released is based on customer experience, across a range of different metrics. The speed checker is a tool we have that people can use to measure their speed. Although we do collect data from it and will be using it in our campaign, it hasn’t featured in the results we released on Friday.

In terms of using the figures, you should have an idea of what speeds you signed up to with your provider. If not, you should certainly ask. Download speed tends to be the headline metric often, and I can see that you have 4.4Mbps, which is generally considered quite poor. This might be something you want to talk to your provider about.

Does that help?

Member
threeinboat says:
26 September 2017

Have to say, using talktalk for many years at my mothers. I have found them to be totally rubbish.
I can not think of one part of using them as even average. When I tested it at my mothers in Clacton, we regularly got 2.8 download and 0.7 upload. this is very poor and no ware near as advertised. Many calls to customer services, which are worse than bad. Rude and have no knowledge of UK law, or the terms and conditions of talktalk. If it was my broadband I would have cancelled it years ago. My mother was old and didn’t want the aggravation. Just felt I had to comment on this deplorable company.

Member
Simon Lawson says:
27 September 2017

Threatened to leave them when contract ran out in July 2016 and they offered me a better deal which I insisted had to be unlimited downloads. Moved home end of September 2016 and had BT transfer my service. Now I discover I am on a limited download service and I have gone over by 36 G which has cost me £63 which I can not really afford due to disability forcing me to be on fixed income. Tried to phone and complain on 25 Sept. 2017. The person I was talking to kept speaking over me and then I was cut off. They did phone back but cut me off as soon as I answered, twice. Then sent a text saying someone would phone me again on 27 Sept. and as yet (at1345) that hasn’t happened. I couldn’t get an answer as to when they changed my contract from unlimited, when my current contract was started or when it will end. I will never use BT again!

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

First of all Simon what has happened is that when you changed addresses they classed it as a “new installation ” which means a renewal of contract . Nobody should be allowed to talk over you and yes I told a certain BT female that only a few days ago –and talked over her . Its known in the USA as “passive aggressive ” and is meant to silence you –they picked the wrong person with me ! After a long argument I got a telephone number to an absolute Gentleman and I say that without reserve . Polite/well-mannered / cultured voice /intellectual / who actually helped me and I got what I wanted after being told -cant be done – its your fault “stupid ” ( in that manner ) as she kept repeating as if she was reading off an -“idiot board ” .I kept saying but that means you are blaming ME -right ? For BT front facing staff this is terrible from a big business image in the UK. Thankfully the GENTLEMAN I spoke to made up for it. I will be sending him a “thank-you “;letter for his excellent service .but I perfectly understand how you have been browbeaten -that makes me very angry ! I would say to you to put in an official complaint via EMAIL you should get a reference number and will be called back. BT this isn’t helping your image in this country and I speak as a loyal customer and ex,BT engineer. Pease get back to me for help as I know whats involved .

Member

They just don’t care – indeed, if they ran their service as well as their accounts department, they’d be pretty good!

Member
Robert Coppin says:
1 October 2017

no sooner had I paid for upfront line rental with BT the service speed dropped and charged for sport. I can get out of the BB service but they insist I loose the line rental and NOBODY will take on just BB without line rental. Stitched up good and proper for the next two years.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Robert I am with BT if you look at your billing on MY BT you will find the line rental is not a separately listed amount but is included in whatever bundle you purchase . Two years contract ? what bundle included that ? contracts are usually 12 months unless you re-contracted all or part of your bundle. BT are currently advertising 12 month contracts on TV . bear in mind other ISP,s do the same. Instead of slagging off BT why dont you tell me about the slow BB I could possibly help you .

Member
Peter Northall says:
3 October 2017

Plusnet. Both Broadband and mobile.
In short: _DON’T!
They are without any doubt the worst broadband provider I can remember having. The famed customer service is awful; 30 minute waits on the phone to be connected with somebody who has less knowledge than I do; a pointless online chat option (last time I was 17th in line), and then they blame YOU for their failures. The bb speed is always at the lowest end or below. The mobile didn’t work overseas despite being set up for it.
Awful awful awful.

Member
Peter Lennard says:
11 October 2017

We’re with B4RN which isn’t included on the Which? list presumably because it is a local community initiative – as it’s name implies it is ‘broadband for the rural north’ delivering fibre directly into our homes, not to a cabinet down the road. We get a great service, but what I don’t understand is the discrepancy in speed test results between the Which? broadband tool and speedtest.net. Which? broadband speed checker gives Latency 68ms, Download 124.3Mbps, Upload 366.7Mbps whereas Speedtest.net gives Latency 22ms, Download 897.24Mbps and Upload 940.43Mbps, both using an ethernet cable plugged into the router, not Wifi. Who’s wrong? Are the servers for the two speed checkers in greatly different locations and if so could that explain the difference? The Which? tool won’t permit me to submit the test results without me choosing a broadband provider from their dropdown list, but B4RN isn’t on that list. A pity as there must be other Which? readers in the North Yorkshire/Lancashire/Cumbria border region who could benefit from B4RN if they knew about it. If enough people in a rural community register an interest then B4RN can make plans to head their way, but if Which? will only give publicity to the worst providers and not the best, that is only helping people rise from truly awful to mediocre.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Very glad to hear from a B4RN customer I have been “singing the praises ” of this company in the past here but to deafening silence . I am with you all the way here , marvellous company – BRITISH and your right dont go by Which,s figures their server is in the USA but all broadband speed tests use different methods of judging speed. Some discount noise etc for example . I am sure Which will go on ignoring an excellent BRITISH company as much as HMG ignores small businesses. More power to your elbow Peter I am with you on this.

Profile photo of Alex Whittle
Member

Hi Peter and Duncan, we are aware of the great work that B4RN are doing, and it’s good to hear from their customers directly. I’ve just checked to see why we haven’t included them in our surveys so far and the reason is because we need to have a minimum of 30 of their customers to take part in our annual survey, in order to get a fair representation – this is the same for all providers.

We do still engage with B4RN and keep up to date on what they’re doing for their customers.