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Why are big broadband players faltering in the customer satisfaction polls?

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19th Mar 2015
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Consumer watchdog Which? has published its latest report into customer satisfaction in the UK broadband industry, and highlights a major discrepancy between the lengths smaller providers are willing to go to in order to keep their customers happy compared with larger, more renowned players.

The 2015 broadband survey found BT, Sky and TalkTalk as fairing the worst for customer satisfaction among the 11 providers ranked by some 1,700 consumers, while in comparison, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet Utility Warehouse and Zen Internet were rated best.

And the main bone of contention among the lower-ranked providers was the misinformation given regarding broadband speeds, with the larger players said to be far more flexible about the promotions they deliver in order to encourage customers to sign up for long-term broadband packages.

Which? is currently in the midst of campaigning for broadband providers to improve service and deliver the speeds customers are promised, and wants advertising watchdogs, The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and The Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) to tighten the rules to ensure advertised broadband speeds more closely match the real experience of most customers.

Providers are currently allowed to advertise broadband speeds that only 10% of customers actually receive, and it is something that Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd believes is being exploited by the larger players, generating an army of disgruntled customers as a result:

“Smaller suppliers are leaving larger rivals in their wake when it comes to the service they provide so we need to see the big players up their game.  Ofcom is also currently reviewing this market and we now need it to identify how it plans to ensure broadband customers get a better deal.

“We’ve told the advertising watchdogs that companies need to be much clearer with their customers about the speeds they can expect. However, three months on, we’re still waiting for them to announce how they’ll ensure adverts only show the speeds most customers actually receive.”

While damning in its content, the Which? survey is not the first to cast a shadow over the customer satisfaction being delivered by the UK’s leading broadband providers.

The Institute of Customer Service’s (ICS) UK Customer Satisfaction Index, updated most recently in January 2015, placed broadband and telecoms as its 11th ranking sector out of 13, and its CEO, Jo Causon, believes the industry as a whole could benefit from being more open with its customers:

"Being honest and authentic is key in any interaction with customers. Our research shows that organisations that build higher levels of trust with customers return higher customer satisfaction scores. These customers are then also more likely to recommend and remain loyal to the brand.

"The poor performance of some of the larger telecoms organisations for broadband delivery is consistent with the sector's performance in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index. Telecoms comes 11th out of 13 sectors in the Index and consistently scores below the UK average on trust and loyalty.

"John Lewis named amongst the best performers is no surprise to us. It was the highest placed organisation in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index in January 2015, which demonstrates that customer experience is clearly an essential part of its brand identity, whether in retail or delivering broadband services."

In January, WDS’s global head of marketing, Tim Deluca-Smith told Mycustomer that the telecoms industry was currently in a “dangerous position”, as many of its providers were caught between being seen by their customers as another utility and being able to offer a substantial enough differential to be able to justify current pricing; especially among the bigger providers such as BT and Sky. 

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