Telewest Ranks Highest in ISP Survey

Customer Satisfaction Levels Fall as Customer Service Waiting Times Lengthen

Telewest ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among seven of the leading broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 UK Broadband Internet Service Providers Satisfaction StudySM released yesterday.

The study, now in its second year, reveals a downturn in customer satisfaction levels, falling 33 index points from 2005 to average 653 index points on a 1,000-point scale. A significant contributing factor to the overall levels of customer satisfaction is customer service—in particular wait times to speak with a customer service representative. Customers report waiting on hold an average of 8.7 minutes when calling for customer service—an increase of two minutes from 2005.

“The 2006 study highlights the adverse affect poor call management can have on customer satisfaction levels,” said Caspar Tearle, director of service industry research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of all broadband users have reported contacting a call centre or technical support centre in the past year, and the rise in complaints is significant. In 2005, the number of customers who called customer service with questions outnumbered complaints by three to two, or 62 percent compared with 38 percent. In 2006, the ratio is now 50-50.”

The study examines seven factors that drive overall satisfaction with broadband Internet service providers. The importance weights reflect what is most relevant to ISP customers. The factors are: performance and reliability (24%), customer service/technical support (17%); cost (13%); image (12%); billing (12%); e-mail services (12%); and offerings and promotions (9%).

With an overall index score of 701 points, Telewest receives the highest ratings in two of the most important factors—performance and reliability and customer service/technical support. AOL follows Telewest with 679 points, receiving the highest ratings on the image factor. Tiscali ranks third, with a score of 657 points, performing particularly well with customers on the cost of service.

As customer satisfaction levels fall, the study also shows an increase in customer switching. One-fifth (20%) of customers changed their Internet provider in the past year—up from 15 percent in 2005. In addition one-quarter of customers say they are likely to change providers in the next 12 months. With broadband users spending an average of £25.91 per month for services—an increase of £3.59 from 2005—price is identified by potential switchers as the most critical factor in their decision.

“Although 84 percent of customers say they would consider switching providers due to price, this figure is down 5 percent from 2005, which demonstrates other factors, such as customer service, are becoming increasingly important to customers,” said Tearle. “Yet only 16 percent of respondents say that their ISP offered them incentives that recognised their loyalty, which may entice customers to search for new providers. With more broadband providers entering the marketplace, competition to keep customers will continue to heat up.”

The study also finds that broadband users spend about 23 hours per week online at home on average, with AOL customers spending the longest at 26 hours. The most popular online activities include buying products or services, getting maps/directions, online banking and listening to or downloading music from the Internet.

With a 3 percent increase from 2005, 11 percent of customers are now regular users of Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP)—a technology that allows customers to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. More than one-half (51%) of customers say they would be interested in having VoIP.

Despite the fact that the majority of ISPs offer multiple services, interest in bundling telecom services with one supplier remains relatively static at 57 percent. However, only 8 percent of all customers are already receiving all telecom services from one supplier.

The 2006 UK Broadband Internet Service Providers Study is based on responses from 1,438 ISP customers across the UK.

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