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Customers of smaller broadband providers are happier: Cable.co.uk's annual customer satisfaction study finds

  • The Cable.co.uk annual study reached out to 6,000 UK consumers found that BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk customers are less satisfied than those of their smaller competitors
  • Customers rank broadband newcomer SSE in the top spot, with Plusnet and Post Office Broadband coming in second and third
  • Participants believed two thirds (66%) of customers should be able to receive the advertised speed as opposed to the 10% currently permitted
  • "If the most important aspect of your service is how a broadband provider treats you, small is beautiful," says Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert and Director of Communications at consumer telecoms advice site Cable.co.uk

Wednesday 16 November 2016: Cable.co.uk has just announced the results of its second annual customer satisfaction study, which reveals that the UK's big four internet service providers – BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk – have a lot to learn from newcomers to the market as well as much smaller organisations.

We talked to 6,000 UK consumers and found that those who buy broadband from BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk are less satisfied with the customer service they receive than SSE*, Plusnet and Post Office Broadband customers.

The big four providers have a collective 87% share of the UK broadband market**, yet they fail to rank in our top four. Sky placed fifth, Virgin Media sixth, BT eighth and TalkTalk ninth, with a rating of just 6.66 out of 10, despite serving 13% of all UK broadband customers***.

Showing them how it’s done is SSE, one of the big six energy suppliers, which only began providing broadband at the end of 2014. It received the highest customer satisfaction score of 7.94 out of 10 in our rating.

Yorkshire-based provider Plusnet came in second, with Post Office Broadband third.

Commenting on the results of the customer satisfaction study, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert and Director of Communications at Cable.co.uk, said:

"What our study shows is that if the most important aspect of your service is how a broadband provider treats you, small is beautiful.

"Broadly speaking, the more customers you have the more difficult it can be to keep them happy. High call volumes often force larger companies to migrate to more one-size-fits-all solutions that target the most common problems, but that often means a struggle for customers whose difficulties don't fit a predetermined 'type'.

"Customers often have different priorities. If you want the fastest speeds or the most TV channels, you may be willing to accept middling or even poor customer service and problem handling to get it, and rationalise that choice by supposing it will never happen to you. But of course, it often does."

Top 10 Internet Service Providers in Cable.co.uk's annual customer satisfaction study

Table 1: If a broadband package is advertised as 'up to' 17Mbps, what percentage (%) of customers do you feel should actually be able to get the full 17Mbps? Please select best match in percent. If unsure please estimate.

The past: the birth of mobile internet

Notes to editors

  • Cable.co.uk commissioned OnePoll to interview 6,000 UK broadband customers between 13 October and 19 October 2016
  • Respondents included customers of a further eight named companies and other unnamed smaller providers. Due to the sample size being small, we have aggregated these together as ‘Other small providers’ in the customer satisfaction study (see table above)
  • Respondents were asked to rate their provider on customer service, reliability, value for money and the equipment supplied. Their scores of between one and 10 were combined and an average rating was found
  • The raw customer satisfaction study data, split by gender, age and region is available on request
  • The results of last year’s customer satisfaction study are also available on request
  • *SSE is by no means a small company, it's one of the UK's big six energy suppliers, but it is a small broadband provider in terms of its market share. It is one of the many smaller providers that collectively share 8% of the market.
  • **Internet statistics 2015, Ofcom
  • ***Internet statistics 2015, Ofcom
  • If using our research and/or commentary we would deeply appreciate a link either to this page or to https://www.cable.co.uk


What is Cable?

Cable is a broadband, TV and phone comparator, unique news source and consumer champion.

Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades, running research fieldwork both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now consumer telecoms analyst at Cable, as well as more formally operating in the role of its Director of Communications and Content.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer, Dan has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers. Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality, administered Cable’s Broadband Service Quality Awards and sat on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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