BT and British Gas in a league of their own for bad customer serviceby
A survey of consumer attitudes to contact centre service and technologies has found the telecoms and TV provider sectors perform worst, with three companies, BT, Sky and Virgin Media in the bottom five - and British Gas is keeping its end up with an ongoing appalling track record.
The survey of 1,000 UK adults undertaken by independent ICM Research also found contact centres located offshore are a concern, as well as companies' growing reliance on new voice recognition and touchtone, call-waiting and routing technologies. The survey asked respondents about the level of service received from a range of companies operating in different sectors, including finance or banking, cinemas and mobile phone or utility companies.
BT's customer service came in bottom of all companies in the survey, with customers complaining of language difficulties with offshore operators, problems with automated technology causing long waiting times and being transferred from one department to another with problems remaining unresolved.
The survey also revealed that over half of phone calls to customer support lines had significant waiting times, with 38 percent claiming that the length of the wait was highly unsatisfactory.
Respondents reported that at least 55 percent of calls resulted in significant waiting times before they were able to speak to an operator across all sectors. And 38 percent of callers to banks and financial institutions said the wait was "highly unsatisfactory", where 78 percent of callers to companies in this sector were asked to select options by choosing numbers on their phones from a menu.
Voice recognition systems also come under fire. Respondents with regional accents complained that voice recognition technologies result in misheard options, and automatic call routing often failed to offer the desired options.
British Gas was found to be the worst of the utility companies, coming third in the top five worst overall performer. Watchdog Energywatch says that it currently receives seven times more gripes about British Gas than some of its rivals while the latest annual customer service survey by the internet comparison website uSwitch concluded that British Gas's customer service record was the worst in the industry.
British Gas on the other hand reckons it's doing better. It said that it has invested an additional £60 million in customer service this year and that between April and August monthly complaints fell by nearly 60 percent to their lowest level since 2006. "Our customers are telling us they like the new system we've introduced and our complaints have fallen by more than a third. We've also increased our frontline customer service team by almost 25 percent,” said a spokesman.
Energywatch's Graham Kerr is not convinced. "Despite signs of improvement by British Gas over the summer, the company is still in a league of its own when it comes to providing poor customer service,” he said.
Overall, the track record of telcos and utilities firms remains shockingly bad. "Poor customer service has plagued the energy industry for years, but consumers have successfully forced the issue with suppliers by making it clear that they won't pay first-rate money for a second-rate service,” said Ann Robinson, uSwitch's director of consumer policy. “As a result, consumer concerns seem to be getting more air time in suppliers' boardrooms and service levels are finally heading in the right direction."