Save, make, understand money

Household Bills

Virgin Media worst telecoms firm for customer service

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

A report by Ofcom found Virgin Media had lower than average overall satisfaction scores across the mobile, landline and broadband sectors, and it was the most complained about telecoms provider in 2021.

Virgin’s mobile customers gave the company a score of 83% for overall satisfaction against an industry average of 91%. Landline customers scored it at 69% versus an average of 77%, and broadband customers 78% against an industry average of 83%.

The figures form part of an Ofcom report on customer service across the telecoms sector. The regulator’s report found that while customer satisfaction is relatively high, call waiting times are still above pre-pandemic levels. The report covers 2021 meaning it includes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mobile call waiting times

Having nearly doubled between 2019 (1 minute 18 seconds) and 2020 (2 minutes 7 seconds) due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the average time that mobile customers had to wait to speak to their provider rose again in 2021 – to 2 minutes 15 seconds.

O2’s mobile customers were kept waiting the longest on average last year – an average of 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.

Broadband call waiting times

For broadband and landline, most major providers saw a decrease in their average call waiting times since 2020, but only Plusnet, Sky, Virgin Media and Vodafone reduced them to pre-pandemic levels.

On average, broadband and landline customers waited 2 minutes 16 seconds to get through in 2021. In 2020, they were on hold for 4 minutes 9 seconds, on average. Again, this had nearly doubled from 2019 (2 minutes 10 seconds).

KCOM customers had the longest average call waiting time last year at 8 minutes 53 seconds, which more than doubled from 2020. Now Broadband had the shortest average wait time, at 31 seconds.

Resolving complaints

On average, one in five broadband customers, one in 10 mobile customers, and one in 20 landline customers said they had reason to complain about their service or provider in 2021.

However, only half of mobile, broadband and landline customers who complained to their provider in 2021 were satisfied with the way their problem was handled. Ofcom said this was an industry-wide issue, with no provider scoring more than 57%.

Most complainants had to get in touch with their provider more than once to get their complaint resolved.

Best and worst customer service scores

As well as lower than average overall satisfaction scores, Virgin was the most complained about broadband and mobile provider in 2021 with its customers less likely than average to recommend the provider to a friend.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said:  “We’re committed to continued investment in our services and processes so that every customer receives the excellent service they deserve. This can be seen in the reduction in call wait times to pre-pandemic levels, as well as the improving trends we’re seeing in Virgin Media’s performance in Ofcom’s quarterly complaints reports. However, we know there is more to do and will continue to prioritise customer service process to ensure we keep on improving.”

While Tesco Mobile was not one of the quickest companies to pick up the phone to its customers, it was the only mobile provider to achieve a higher-than-average satisfaction level (96% vs 91%).

Tesco Mobile also attracted the fewest complaints to Ofcom and its customers were more likely than average to recommend their provider to a friend.

Conversely, although Three had the lowest average call waiting time, it also had a relatively low overall satisfaction score (86%) compared to a sector average of 91%.

BT was the only provider in both the broadband and landline sectors to achieve a higher-than-average score for overall satisfaction (88% vs 83% for broadband and 81% vs 77% for landline).

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, especially at a time when prices are going up. It’s never been simpler to switch, so if you’re not happy with the service you’re getting, vote with your feet and look elsewhere.”

Ru Bhikha, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, said: “The demand on mobile and broadband services may have eased off slightly since the height of the pandemic but some customers are still being shortchanged by their providers on the service they receive.

“The fact that the majority of UK mobile users had to wait longer to speak to their provider last year than they did in the midst of the pandemic should be a wake-up call to the industry. Today’s figures will be particularly embarrassing for O2, whose call waiting times were double those of many of their rivals.

“While customers value a swift response it is even more important that they feel listened to and not rushed by call handlers. This is where some providers like Three and TalkTalk fell down despite picking up quicker than their rivals.

“Others such as Tesco Mobile deserve recognition for such positive results, and our customers also agree the network is best for customer service.

“Customers who are unhappy with their current broadband or mobile network should check their contract and see if they are able to switch. When considering a move to a new provider, be sure to check the service levels in your area to see which one will offer you the best speeds and coverage.”