/ Technology

Broadband suppliers – don’t cut corners on customer service

Customer Service

When it comes to choosing a phone or broadband provider, price is key for consumers. And with bundled and discounted deals a-dime-a-dozen, it’s easy to see why. But are we sacrificing customer service?

Only a fraction of people think customer service is important when they choose a phone or broadband provider, so says research by telecoms watchdog Ofcom. Price and network performance are apparently people’s top decision-making considerations.

Yet across all communications sectors Ofcom looked at, only two thirds of people said they were ‘satisfied’ with their provider’s customer service. Broadband and landline fared the worst, with 60% and 58% satisfaction scores respectively.

Ok, so that means most people are satisfied – but there’s still a significant number of people who are at best neutral and at worst unhappy with their provider’s customer service.

Think about customer service first

I can’t say I’m surprised. Anyone who’s spent hours hanging on the phone to a broadband provider’s so-called ‘help’ line will agree that, when something goes wrong, customer service takes on a whole new level of importance.

So maybe we should give more thought to the quality of the provider’s customer service before we jump on board? Of course, I work for Which? and we’re always fighting for great customer service, so I would say that – right?

But as well as being in the troubled position of hearing the grief many Which? members go through when their phone or broadband supplier isn’t up to scratch, I’ve been at the sharp end of truly terrible customer service myself.

Avoid providers with abysmal customer service

On one notable occasion it took something like 10 phone calls to my supplier (which they’d always forgotten the next time I’d called) and three engineer visits to fix a phone fault. Yes, network performance was the initial problem – but what really got my goat was the abysmal customer service that left me without a working phone for the best part of two months.

I’m not saying forget about price – few of us can afford to in the current economic climate. But some providers manage to keep prices competitive without stinting on service, while others charge the earth and still have high numbers of dissatisfied customers. Just take a look at the Which? broadband reviews if you’re not convinced.

We should all put more emphasis on great customer service when we choose a mobile, landline or broadband supplier and forsake the providers known to fall at the first customer service hurdle. If we Vote with our Feet then maybe – just maybe – competitive pressures will force poor players to up their game. Here’s hoping.

Toneboy says:
15 July 2010

I am a cable user, Virgin Media and in general I find the service they provide is good, but my main gripe is the price charged for the various services and bundled services, no two customers seem to pay the same price for the same product.

Long standing customers will often find that they are paying many more pounds for a service than newer customers, but you only find out by chance or regularly monitoring the provider's website for the latest new customer offers. If you do find out then you have to contact your provider and bargain over the phone or by email to see if you can get your bill reduced and even then you can not be sure that you have been offered the best deal as you have no way of checking other than by online forums.

Well I chose my ISP (Vispa Internet) on the basis of paying a bit more for better service. This lot seemed to highly rated when I researched (6 years ago). They've not been terrible, but I wouldn't rate them as wonderful either…and I've never been sure whether I shouldn't have gone for something a bit cheaper. The trouble is these things can change; an ISP can start off wonderful and then deteriorate…and I don't like the incovenience of switching (though next time I won't make the mistake of using an email account tied to the ISP!).

Roger says:
16 July 2010

I think most people choose their Broadband primarily on cost, after all, if we thought it was going to be a problem we would go to a different supplier in the first place wouldn't we??? That having been said I think that good support is what will stop you from changing suppliers, so in the end we should all gravitate to a company with good support. Yes I know, that will only work if we could change suppliers without all the hassle; but that is due to change isn't it? ( I certainly hope so) I wish suppliers would make it easier to contact them. eg BT, have you ever tried to find the Tel Number to report a fault or a problem? they keep telling you to go to the website, when most of the time if we could get to their website we wouldn't have a problem. If you can get to their website there are lots of faq's and ask Emma, but when all that fails try finding the Phone number!!!!!!

Tom O'Connor says:
17 July 2010

As a Virgin Media cable customer, I have been generally pleased with the way that they have dealt with the few problems that I've had. The only concern was when I had a problem with the virgim supplied modem, I called the help desk and when I explained the problem (dropped connection) They correctly did a couple of tests, identified a faulty modem, said that they would send out a new one. Which never happened, I then went through the whole loop three more times, explanation, tests, order. Even though each time the person said they could see the details of the previous call.
Ground hog day!
At least it's all working now

BT must be one of the worst for fixing their faults. There is only one number for fault reporting. After listening to many messages “enter this for that” there is a slim chance the person you speak to may understand basic English. The patter is always the same “we are here to help you resolve your problem”. I never have a problem BT does. I always provide statistical information to show BT has a problem but they don’t understand the technology, things like signal to noise ratio and line attenuation mean nothing to them.
Last night was a good example when there was a failure in my local exchange. The BT operative would not accept there was a problem even though I still had communication with the exchange (modem to modem) and no change in line statistics (data rate, attenuation and signal to noise ratio). She insisted in sending an Open reach person round. I picked up the phone and rang some friends, guess what they had no internet communication either. I telephoned BT again and told them to fix their kit which they did at 2:42 this morning. I run Router Stats all the time, a brilliant bit of software, everything is logged. The good news is that TalkTalk are installing a box in Ludlow exchange so there is now an alternative supplier. I’m off.

Gavin Blackett says:
19 July 2010

I'd prefer that I never have to deal with the Customer Services of my chosen ISP. I want to have fast reliable service that easy to set up in the first place – then I'd never have to speak to them.

I'd also like to be able to find when my choice of providers will be widened as they enable their Local Loop Unbundling offers at my exchange.

I was content with my "Freeserve" broadband and with "Wanadoo" when it took-over, but then calamity; "Orange" took-over. When their service was at fault, they insisted that I telephone them at about £6/hr and no call would last for les than one hour. It took 3 letters to their Chief Executive Officer, one visit to their Stafford Shop and nearly 4 months to retrieve some of my money and change to another ISP. The "assistant" in their shop stated that they could sell me a broadband contract, but they were not permitted to give assistance to a customer due to "not being permitted to use their premium rate telephone number. She sugggested that I should use that number!
I had a BT telephone account and on discovering that all calls for support were at BT's expense, I signed-up to an 18 month contract. When download speed deteriorated to, on occasions as low as 38kb/sec, I telphoned for assistance. since then I have had 11 BT Open Reach engineers appointments, although on one occasion, management did not bother to inform an engineer to attend! All engineers have proved themselves to be of the highest ability and have alwas cured the speed problem by giving me over 2Mb/sec (the highest achievable in this area) when the left. some attended for over 3hrs. One engineer stated that BT had informed him that my broadband would work better with a "BT Hub" insted of my "BT Voyager 210 Router" and changed it. On subsequent visits, two of the engineers were told that there was a problem with the Hub and that BT should replace it. A "BT Manager" in the Republic of India stated that since the Hub was two weeks old, the warranty was void, but he could reinstate it provided that I signed-up for another 18 month contract, or alternatively paid for another Hub, even though I had been told that there would be no cost to me. He was to call me on the next day, but I have learned that this a normal ploy used by these "managers" and one should never expect the promised call to materialize. When I told another manager that it was BT's agent who had removed my router and replaced it with a Hub which was not fit for purpose; he intimated that the engineers had lied to me and that there was nothing wrong with the router. After over two months, the fault rectification is ongoing.

I have been with Virgin Media broadband for years and they are OK. My main gripe like so many others is the speed. I live no more than a mile as the proverbial crow ( more likely seagull ) flies from the main exchange in my town. The telephone wire connection is the main problem and until that technological problem is solved we will never get the broadband service we require or that is offered by so many suppliers

I'm with 'O2' and although I have recently encountered a problem with my connection speed, it is very easy and quick to contact their support staff. Perhaps most importantly, it's FREE to do so. In fact, as I write this my line is currently undergoing one of their 24 hour line tests and I am expecting a call from them later today to discuss the findings and learn of the next proposed course of action should it be required. Needless to say (Sod's Law) the connection has been working fine since the instigation of the test some 17 hours ago! I've been with 'O2' for little over a year now and would recommend them.

I jumped to sign up with Cable & Wireless in the 1980’s when they laid the cables – because BT was so bad – not only service and incorrect bills – but Telephone connection (no WWW then). Since then C&W my ISP became Virgin. Their supplied equipment has worked very well – The only problem has been TV connection twice. In both cases the technician turned up within hours or next day.- replaced the box once and changed the card once.

The cost was never an issue as I have found many ISP actually have special introductory rates – just as Virgin did when I went from dial up to Broadband – I had a year at less than half price. But the connection has been superb and still offers far faster speed than any other bar none.

The TV, DAB Radio and telephone are equally superb.

The customer is in an impossible situation. Whatever the level of support when the customer signs up with a particular provider, that may change drastically for the worse with successive mergers, take-overs and, worst of all, outsourcing the support to Indian call centres where language is a major problem and where the proportion of blatant untruths told seems to be even higher than elsewhere.

Years ago and quite a few changes of ownership ago, I placed one of my phone lines with Homecall. The phone service and the contract arrangements have been totally satisfactory and I use the Homecall smtp server for 99% of my outgoing email. Last week, because of gmail outage, I attempted to point a number of email addresses to the homecall pop server, only to discover that my homecall pop box wasn’t working.Several phone calls got the box working but I still couldn’t download the mail. It took four calls to an Indiian call centre to ascertain the reason — that their published information and information given to me by the first three droids was wrong as regards the name of the homecall pop server.

Better make friends with your local computer service guy — you’re going to need him. Hardware costs have dropped dramatically and so have software costs. I came across the invoice for a computer I bought over fifteen years ago — £3,500, including £99 for a Microsoft mouse! Most people can buy a fair amount of support from a local source.

derek says:
9 March 2011

i am with orange these and all other providers tell me my cable will only carry .5mb other users using same cable that feeds the village get from 2.5mb to 6.7mb.i think it is not the cable but just the two cores that feed my property.spent hours on phone get same answer they run test and tell me same old rubbish.

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