Read an article by our guest blogger Matt Powell, the editor of Broadband Genie, a consumer focused information site offering advice on home and mobile broadband, in which he discusses how UK broadband providers can improve diminishing customer satisfaction by honouring a few fundamental consumer demands.
Every year at Broadband Genie we examine the state of fixed line broadband in the UK with our home broadband awards. Using a mix of surveys and expert opinion we can build a picture of how the leading providers are performing in key areas such as customer service, tech support and speed.
The latest results showed a significant drop in approval ratings in almost all areas. The number of people who would recommend their ISP fell from 73.7% to 66.2%. Not a catastrophic change but it’s certainly moving in the wrong direction.
It wasn’t all bad: 72% of Sky broadband customers would recommend their ISP, up from 69% last year, and overall winner Plusnet saw improvements in every single category. There’s still a lot of work to be done though, so what can UK ISPs do to improve?
Customer service and tech support is probably the number one bugbear for broadband customers. One point of contention is the use of foreign call centres, and providers such as Plusnet have made a point of advertising their UK based staff. It’s not a bad selling point but doesn’t guarantee you won’t still encounter rude or unhelpful people while trying to get your net connection back.
This can be a tricky one to solve, but we think it’s probably best if ISPs stick to the basics: give call centre staff good training and treat them well, ensure lines are well staffed and open long hours so people aren’t wasting their entire lunch breaks on hold, make sure that callbacks actually happen, and aim to solve problems quickly and efficiently without trying to pass the buck or make excuses.
It’s also frustrating to be told that only a manager can help, so first line support workers who have the knowledge and flexibility to solve problems right then and there can be much better for ISPs in the long term.
Another major complaint we see time and time again surrounds the performance of a broadband connection. However often (but not always…) this is an issue outside the ISPs control. Broadband services are heavily affected by the quality of phone lines both inside and outside a home, and in the case of ADSL in particular there’s a huge drop in speed the further you are from the exchange.
But ISPs could do more to communicate this to customers before and during the sign-up process. Ofcom’s guidance states that providers must give customers an accurate speed estimate, however we’d also like to see information packs (either print, email or web) given to everyone which clearly lay out common issues and how to solve them. The tech savvy will know that using cheap extension cables or being unlucky enough to have old lines can have a significant impact on speeds, but many people assume the speed they are told at sign-up is what they’ll get, and are understandably annoyed if it later performs significantly below their expectations.
Of course it’d be nice if we had access to fibre optic internet and could all get 1Gb piped to our homes, but building network infrastructure is not something most ISPs can afford. They need to make sure customers are kept informed while managing expectations.
When things to go wrong at the ISPs end we as customers always appreciate being given honest information with accurate timescales for a fix.
A recent example is Sky’s handling of the performance drop experienced by users in certain areas. Due to over-subscribed exchanges connection speeds were dropping at busy periods, and while they didn’t acknowledge this as quickly as they should have the firm did eventually ‘fess up, admitting that it had a problem and confirming that it was upgrading capacity. It even created a postcode check tool so users could find out if they were affected.
In general the requirements for an ISP are fairly straightforward – we want a service that provides good value for money, with clearly defined terms and conditions and customer support that is knowledgeable, honest and trustworthy. If providers can get these fundamentals straight the UK’s broadband subscribers will be a lot happier overall.
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