Do customer satisfaction surveys tell the whole picture about broadband?

Do customer satisfaction surveys tell the whole picture about broadband?

Monday, 10 June, 2019

Recent news stories about faked academic reports and false online reviews have made us all slightly more sceptical about customer satisfaction surveys.

We’ve known for a long time dissatisfied customers tell far more people than content ones.

And we now know rigging reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor (and even Google) is not just possible – it’s endemic.

This might call into question the legitimacy of broadband surveys – a key tool for many people when deciding which internet service provider to choose.

However, while broadband surveys only provide a snapshot of the market, they should give consumers enough information to differentiate between premium and poor providers.

How to ensure a report or survey is trustworthy

Press releases are often tailored to imply neutrality or a lack of any agenda, before subtly steering people towards a predetermined conclusion.

The first step anyone should take when presented with a customer satisfaction survey is to check who commissioned it.

Independent bodies like Ofcom and Which? can be trusted, but reports commissioned by broadband suppliers themselves should be treated cautiously.

Ofcom released its own findings into broadband service and customer satisfaction a few weeks ago.

However, it’s worth noting that some of the figures in its report seem almost contradictory in isolation, requiring audiences to read the whole survey to get the bigger picture.

Sky had the lowest number of complaints and the highest satisfaction in terms of complaints handling, yet it still didn’t come top in the overall rankings.

We analyse this apparent anomaly further down the page.

What’s missed out of broadband surveys?

Clearly, statistical broadband surveys can’t accurately portray the reality of individual dealings with a particular company.

A ‘poor’ rating for customer service might encompass anything from delayed installation or limited tech support to overcharging and disputes over equipment return – or all four of these.

Equally, a tick-box form probably won’t cover nuances like fluctuating broadband connection speeds, or the inability of a wireless router to provide coverage in the garden.

Bear in mind consumers may be struggling to resolve an issue when they’re surveyed. Their comments could be biased by frustration, lacking the objectivity provided by distance.

Don’t rely entirely on headline figures when deciding whether a company’s performance is inadequate. Read any report in detail, looking for trends or patterns.

We’d also recommend studying more than one survey conducted in the last twelve months. The industry is evolving, but not so quickly that a 2018 report will be irrelevant by now.

Consider what’s most important to you – line speed, price, the ability to resolve problems – and look at how each ISP performs in that area.

It’s also worth having a look on social media, though again, dissatisfied customers will be far more likely to post comments or critiques than contented consumers.

Smaller companies may not appear in certain surveys because their customer bases are too small, but their offerings shouldn’t be discounted.

You’ll find loads of deals from smaller or newer ISPs right here on

The results of Ofcom’s survey

In early May, Ofcom published its latest study of how major broadband companies fare in terms of customer service.

Among the headlines was a gradual improvement in customer satisfaction, with 83 per cent of respondents happy with the service they receive compared to 80 per cent a year ago.

Complaints volumes also fell, from 15 per cent of respondents in 2018 to 13 per cent this year.

Nonetheless, some brands overachieved while others fell short on the time taken to resolve complaints, or the likelihood their customers would recommend the brand.

TalkTalk’s results were particularly disappointing, with less than four in five customers satisfied overall.

BT scraped 80 per cent, while the industry average of 83 per cent was matched by Sky and beaten by everyone else. Plusnet and EE topped the table, each recording 86 per cent.

Curiously, Sky recorded the lowest number of complaints per 100,000 customers, with a figure of just 20.

Arch-rival Virgin Media recorded a figure of 85 per 100,000, though the figures for Plusnet and TalkTalk were even worse.

Sky also performed best in terms of satisfaction with complaints handling, whereas 17 per cent of Plusnet callers abandoned calls after an average seven-minute wait time.

Ofcom’s findings aren’t definitive, but they provide an accurate and pertinent snapshot of how the UK’s big six broadband providers are currently performing.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!