Half full or half empty?
Ofcom has revealed the results of customer satisfaction with telecom providers in its yearly research. In 2021 it found that “only half of customers were satisfied with how complaints are handled. Call-waiting times and complaints-handling are areas of particular concern.”
“On average, one in five broadband customers, one in ten mobile customers and one in 20 landline customers said they had reason to complain about their service or provider in 2021.”
I’m far from surprised that fewer than half of customers who complained to their mobile, broadband or landline provider were satisfied with the way their issue was handled. The fact that Ofcom reports that most complainants had to contact their provider more than once to get a resolution reflects what I regularly hear from consumers.
In 2021 just 37% of broadband complaints, 40% of landline complaints and 43% of mobile complaints were completely resolved on first contact.
What difference does two years make?
In 2019 the average hold time was 1 minute 18 seconds, in 2020 2 minutes 7 seconds and in 2021 the average time that mobile customers had to wait to speak to someone in customer services was 2 minute 15 seconds. It is clear that delays are increasing.
The Ofcom research showed that “O2’s mobile customers were kept waiting the longest on average last year – 3 minutes 59 seconds, up by 1 minute 42 seconds since 2020. BT Mobile, EE, iD Mobile and Vodafone’s average call waiting times were also longer in 2021 compared to the previous year. Three was the quickest to answer customer calls, averaging just 16 seconds.
Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile managed to reduce their wait times in 2021, but Sky Mobile and Three were the only mobile firms to cut their times to pre-pandemic levels.”
Only Plusnet, Sky, Virgin Media and Vodafone reduced average wait times to pre-pandemic levels. Average wait times for broadband and landline customers in 2019 were 2 minutes 16 seconds, in 2020 4 minutes 9 seconds and 2021 2 minutes 16 seconds. KCOM customers however wait an average of 8 minutes 53 seconds.
Average call waiting times by mobile provider
Landline and broadband providers
Only Plusnet, Sky, Virgin Media and Vodafone reduced average wait times to pre-pandemic levels. Average wait times for broadband and landline customers in 2019 were 2minute 16 seconds, 2020 4 minutes 9 seconds and 2021 2 minutes 16 seconds. KCOM customers however wait an average of 8 minute 53 seconds.
Average call waiting times by broadband and landline provider
Ofcom responds – as it does every year…
Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence, said: “When things go wrong with your phone or broadband service, it’s incredibly frustrating if you have to wait on hold for ages to get it sorted, or if your complaint is handled badly.”
“As we emerge from the pandemic, some companies need to up their game when it comes to resolving problems”
Ofcom needs to do more to bring providers to account. In response to the Ofcom 2019 report, Macrae said “We absolutely think that the firms need to up their games in the way they handle complaints.”
“Does that sound familiar?!”
“It’s all very well Ofcom calling on providers to prioritise customer service improvements and ‘deliver what customers expect and deserve’ but Ofcom has been saying this for years! What is Ofcom doing to make that happen?”
A spokesperson for Ofcom said “We have several rules relating to customer service – for example, on complaints handling, contract information, accurate billing, end-of-contract notifications, simple switching and treating vulnerable customers fairly. If we see evidence of widespread issues that could be in breach of our rules, we’ve shown we won’t hesitate to step in and take action.
However, the last time Ofcom fined a telecom company was O2 for £10.5 million in February 2021 for overcharging customers.
The last time it fined a company regarding complaint handling was EE for £1m in July 2015 for complaint handling failures
How to complain to your telecoms company
As always, I advise putting complaints in writing. “This way you always have the evidence should you take the matter further. Some companies will make it very difficult for you to contact customer services in this way. However you can get the CEO’s email address from ceoemail.com. Even if the CEO does not handle the complaint directly, it does get the complaint into the escalated system, with an evidence trail.
If you cannot get the matter resolved to your satisfaction, ask for a deadlock letter. If your complaint has been going on for more than 8 weeks from when you first contacted the provider you do not need the letter. You can just take the matter to the Communication Ombudsman or CISAS (your provider must be a member of one of these). They will make a decision on your case and the telecoms provider must abide by the ruling.
Further help with complaining about telecom providers
How to complain effectively to telecom providers links to various posts regarding mobile, broadband, telecoms…
Purchase and download Templates for complaining about utilities if you just want a template to get a matter sorted quickly.
If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!
101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints