back to article Hold the phone! Crap customer service cost telcos £2.9 BEEEELLION in 2016

Shoddy customer service is costing telcos £2.9bn per year, making the sector the second most moaned about, according to the Ombudsman Services. Annual research by the complaints mediation service found that the total number of grievances registered by consumers in 2016 was 55 million, up 3 million from 2015. Of those, 13 per …

  1. Andrew Moore

    My experience...

    After spending a week and a half, complaining about support from my telco, the support has just decided to flat out lie to me claiming it gave support when it didn't. Unfortunately for them, I have a email paper trail backing up my claim.

  2. tfewster Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Where does the £2.9bn/£10bn "loss" come from? Not from fines and, as Howdle said, "[customers] don't see the point in switching" (the rest of his comment, about searching for a better deal, is not relevant to the customer service issue).

    If telcos aren't actually losing money, they have little incentive to improve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ...especially if customers jump ship to the cheapest provider, not the one with the best service. It just incentivises cutting costs from service operations to allow for a lower price.

      1. Calleb III

        But they are all the same shit, but little different. Might as well go for the cheapest

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Loss

          Guessing it's from the average cost of resolving a claim, Which, IIRC, is £50 in the banking sector.

  3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Last year I had months of grief from the unmitigated s**tfest that is Npower.

    Once the dust had settled, I submitted a request to get recordings of all the calls, complete with all of their bad attitude, lies, contradictions, hangings-up, etc. I then had a lot of fun posting these at various places on the Web, to name and shame them, and as a warning to others.

    Cost me £10 for the CD, plus some time, but time and money well-spent in my opinion. Nobody should be able to get away with such poor service to bill-paying customers

    1. IglooDude

      I'm actually a little surprised that your request for the recordings was actually fulfilled, and not ignored, diverted, blackholed, responded to with "oh we lost those recordings", etc. Well done!

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        I'm actually a little surprised that your request for the recordings was actually fulfilled, and not ignored, diverted, blackholed, responded to with "oh we lost those recordings", etc. Well done!

        It's actually one of the things that they're legally obliged to provide in response to a request for info under the Data Protection Act. If they didn't comply with my request within 28 days, they'd have the regulator to answer to...and we all know how fearful a prospect that could be :-/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          they'd have the regulator to answer to...and we all know how fearful a prospect that could be :-/

          Yes, but in this case ICO are backstopped by the very aggressive Ofgem, who rejoice in doling out multi-million quid fines. Energy companies need a licence to operate, and the licence has a specific condition requiring companies to treat customers fairly. Last year Scottish Power were fined £18m for failures under a range of licence conditions, and npower copped a £26m spanking. I'm very surprised npower had the competence to provide a response to your demand, I'm not at all surprised that they would want to.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            fines ain't working, and won't

            "Last year Scottish Power were fined £18m for failures under a range of licence conditions, and npower copped a £26m spanking. "

            So? Customers, staff, etc will ultimately pay for that, as is traditional.

            How many directors were disqualified?

            How many directors went to jail ?

    2. Baldy50

      Going...

      Down that road myself, very soon, wankers!

  4. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    That assumes there's competition to which we can switch.

    If we live in an area that is "under serviced" (AKA there's little to no competition) then we may have no choice to take what we can get. The only pseudo-option being to pack up & move elsewhere in hopes the new location enjoys greater choices, but moving may not be something we can afford to do either.

    As an anecdotal example there are three main broadband providers that cover where I live.

    One is the national cable company that, upon securing it's regional monopoly, has ceased to give a fuck about providing services that are federally considered as "broadband" (I get 3MiBps rather than the 25MiBps the government considers as broadband) & said cable company is pressing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to tear up any regulations that might force it (Comcast) to even THINK about doing what's right by it's victims/customers.

    The other is AT&T/Dish Network for DSL or satelite respectively. Since the former owns the latter, you can't do business with the latter without having to deal with the former. AT&T's DSL would require me to pay their line upgrade prices so AT&T could bring the POTS lines running to my house up to something that wasn't originally installed by Mister A.G. Bell himself. So for over $1K I can get a DSL line installed, then pay $40 a month for a whopping *ONE* MiBps. Dish isn't an option unless I convince my neighbors to cut down all their trees so I can get a line of sight to the horizon for satelite tracking.

    The third option is a cellular ISP. That "option" would charge me an extortionate fee to connect, additional fees to give me a connection speed that didn't mimic dial up, more fees not to have a data cap that cut me off if I dared to download an email with someone's cat photo attached, & then still more fees tacked on if I dared to use it as a tethered connection via my computer (the prime method I use the internet is via my desktop). So pay by the byte, data caps, bandwidth outpaced by a 56Kbps dial up modem, & I'd have to get a SmartPhone to use it? No thanks.

    I realize I'm on the wrong side of the Pond for this to be truly applicable, but surely there are similar situations over there?

    Maybe you live just outside a bit of "civilized" city & the phone company/cable company/cellular company wants a bajillion Pounds to build the infrastructure required to reach your house?

    Perhaps they already can reach you but only barely & the bandwidth you would get would make a snail run circles around you?

    Whatever, it all assumes there's sufficient competition to make switching to a different provider an option.

    If there's no viable competition then the incumbent can safely treat us all like the walking wallets they can squeaze us to milk us for every last fucking penny they can.

    What are we going to do about the shitty service if there's nobody we can switch to in order to vote with the only things that matter to them: our wallets?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: That assumes there's competition to which we can switch.

      the phone company/cable company/cellular company wants a bajillion Pounds to build the infrastructure required to reach your house?

      I can understand that you don't want to pay what it would cost to get suitable infrastructure, but do you really expect all the other phone company customers to be happy if they have to pay for your upgrade? Because that's what getting the phone company to pay actually means.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @Phil, Re: infrastructure.

        I'm sorry I wasn't clear about this point.

        There is already a phone line run to the house & I have a land line that connects via "Plain Old Telephone Service" (POTS) over lines that are very old but still acceptable if that's the only service I use them for: voice.

        But if I want to take AT&T up on their advertisements that they cram in my mailbox every week to get their "high speed DSL", then I would need to pay them to upgrade the lines not just from my house but *all the POTS lines along the poles to the nearest DSLAM*.

        I could understand & accept it if it were just replacing the lines from the nearest pole to the house, they were originally installed in the 1950's, but not being required to pay to upgrade the lines that AT&T should have upgraded on their own dime a LOOOOOOONG time ago.

        It would be like if your cable provider offered to hook you up with gigabit, but only if you would pay to upgrade *everybody else on your street* as well because they haven't bothered to lay the infrastructure with the capacity to handle the service they're trying to sell you in the first place.

        I hope that clears up my position a bit? =-)

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: That assumes there's competition to which we can switch.

      Dish isn't an option unless I convince my neighbors to cut down all their trees so I can get a line of sight to the horizon for satelite tracking.

      WWBD (What Would BOFH Do)?

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @Korev, Re: BOFH.

        Unfortunately I actually *like* those neighbors. Now, if it were the ones on the other side, I'd already have the FlameThrower refilled, pressurized, & ready to start a late night BBQ.

        I swear to Cthulhu that if I hear obnoxiously loud Mariachi music at O'DarkThirty again, I'm gonna start prepping Molotov's...

        *Cough*

        =-)p

  5. Donk
    Paris Hilton

    And yet...

    You'd think with service this bad you'd have leftists queuing around the block calling for renationalisation of the telecommunications industry, given that's what they do for rail and energy suppliers.

    Paris, because even she is smarter than leftists who think nationalisation will fix anything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And yet...

      Strawman much?

  6. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Customer service model

    It does seem that the larger companies share a similar approach to customer service, which is that first they will try to dodge complaints by obfuscating their contact details behind a cycle of a "contact us" web page that just leads to the FAQs that lead back to the "contact us" page that leads to the FAQ page.

    Next, if you do get through it's to a low level call handler, whether by email or phone they will give an uncomprehending or anodyne generic response that doesn't answer the question. Which will perhaps get escalated to a higher level if you persist, who will do the same, but offer an apology and a trivial compensation, if that's the nature of the issue. Which may get sent to an apparently higher level, which will apologies even more, and make still trivial offer. And when you point out what should be done to make things right they say "We can't do that". As if their multi-million pound company is physically incapable of this action. As opposed to just being unwilling.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Move from one crap provider to .... drunroll please ... another crap provider.

    It costs the consumers probably £2 billion in their time wasted trying to get a decent service.

    The companies, being a cosy-cartel, don't give a fuck about anyone but their shareholders and themselves.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Move from one crap provider to .... drunroll please ... another crap provider.

      That's the problem. I've just kicked BT in the head for being too expensive for my total package of broadband, land line (never used to make calls) and a mobile phone. Nearly £50 per month, due to go up shortly. Phoned to cancel the account and the droid offered to give me free line rental. Too late; I've already signed up with Three (mobile internet, so no land line needed). Three was a pain to deal with, their website crashed during the payment process giving me a blank screen. Ended up speaking to one of their droids on live chat who had difficulty phoning me (apparently he typed in my phone numbers wrong) and eventually I got passed on to someone else, explained everything again, who passed me on to someone else and explained yet again, who finally completed the purchase, but instead of getting an order confirmed email I got two emails expressing bafflement why I'd abandoned the sign up process at the end! Anyway, the Three mobile internet is now up and running and working fine.

      For the mobile phone I thought I'd try Virgin and transfer my BT number to them (used to be with Virgin twenty odd years ago and they were great then). Anyway Virgin sent me a SIM card via the delivery company Yodel, who posted the parcel through a random stranger's letterbox half a mile up the road. The occupant at that address kindly hand delivered the parcel to me, which at least restored my faith in human nature to a certain extent, but it hasn't inspired confidence in Virgin using such an apparently bargain basement delivery company. Sigh.

      1. Baldy50

        Made me giggle, taah!

        Ring their CS! When you have a problem and try not to smash something!

    2. Baldy50

      Branston pickle is...

      So, so, so far superior to his (Richard Branson)'s customer service, no offense but off-shoring CS when they don't understand the language, never mind the slight variances in dialect and pronunciation, they may as well just not bother at all.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Branston pickle is...

        VirginMedia is nothing to do with Mr Branson these days - LibertyGlobal bought it off Virgin Group a year or two ago.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cosy-cartel, with hangers-on too.

    "The companies, being a cosy-cartel, don't give a fuck about anyone but their shareholders and themselves."

    And their hangers-on, the switching-assistance companies (comparison sites, etc), don't give a feck about end user satisfaction, as long as the switching sites get their kickbacks from the gaining providers.

    The more people switch, more frequently, the better it is for uSwitch etc.

    How on earth does that help improve customer service?

    Silly game. Very very silly.

  9. rhydian

    To be fair to the telcos for a (brief) second...

    ...They do end up taking the blame for issues that might not be their fault. Remember all of a customer's interaction with OpenRetch (missed appointments, crap cables and poor maintenance) goes through them and therefore any blame sticks to them, not Openreach. Also, "slow broadband" could easily be down to congestion on 2.4 GHz in tower blocks/dense housing or similar.

    Of course, any billing and upstream networks issues are 100% their problem, and they should sort it.

    1. BigAndos

      Re: To be fair to the telcos for a (brief) second...

      Yes unfortunately many broadband products in the UK are just Openreach products being resold. I tend to stick with BT as at least one less corporate entity is involved when trying to get something fixed.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: To be fair to the telcos for a (brief) second...

        as at least one less corporate entity is involved when trying to get something fixed.

        But the advantage of using a 'reasonable' third-party is that whilst there is another corporate entity involved, they also have an Ofcom backed SLA with Openreach. Which can be useful if you really want that business line repaired within 5 business days and not at some undefined time in the future. But then if your line is that important, you will be paying significantly more than the cheapest in the market in any case.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To be fair to the telcos for a (brief) second...

      At least part of the mess is because the telcos won't let Openreach speak directly to the customers - everything has to go through the telco. Open reach could test lines regularly, spot problems and make appointments to come and investigate, but they're prohibited from doing it.

      When unbundling was introduced there was an alternate model proposed, where Openreach rented you the wires and you bought services from whoever you chose. It was rejected.

  10. Tim 11

    as the old addage says...

    "We don't care; we don't have to. We're the phone company"

    just as true today as it was in the 60's

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I wonder where banks fit into the complained about league.

  12. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Making the most of cheaper deals aimed at new customers offers both the satisfaction of saving money as well as stoking the fires of change among the providers themselves.

    Yes, it stokes a race to the bottom. Good customer service is expensive to provide. Encouraging customers to change to the cheapest provider kinda works against that.

    1. Death_Ninja

      Yes I am sure switching to a cheaper product is exactly where you are going to find better customer service.... NOT.

      Given the utter shitefest you see when you look at the complaints numbers for all of the telco providers its unlikely that you will find any better happier place than where you are either - unless you get lucky and in the swap whatever problem you had went away by magic and you are problem free until you have a problem...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        John Lewis and A&A seem well regarded. Quality costs.

        1. macladd

          John Lewis is Plusnet with a posher label.

          It is possible to polish a turd it seems......

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            ...or at least roll it in glitter.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      At least you guys on that side of the pond have a choice... <grumble><kicks cat><mutter><sputter> Where I am, we have 1 true broadband ISP and they're crap (Charter). There's one Telco with dead dog slow DSL (if you can get it by being close enough to an "office") or wireless (AT&T or Verizon). After looking at the charges and random connectivity issues, the "wireless" isn't an option for a desktop user.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Fihart

    EE another PAYG price increase

    http://discover.ee.co.uk/3G5S2pCw

    T Mobile/EE -- from March 15p per text, calls 35ppm.

    Three Network, 2p per text, calls 3ppm.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: EE another PAYG price increase

      "Three Network, 2p per text, calls 3ppm."

      Don't forget the 1p per MB, useful if you are using the Three Skype client and or a third-party messaging/email service.

      If you wanting a basic call/text device ie. you are using a 2G handset eg. a Doro or old Nokia, then Three is not appropriate, in these circumstances, I've found the Asda Mobile PAYE deal reasonable: 4p per text, calls 8ppm.

  15. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Can I complain

    about my GP who's practise has moved to a call queuing system instead of the old "engaged tone" thing

    Because its nice to know you are number 12 in the call queue, and 10 mins later you are told you are number 11, while paying for the call thats liable to last another hr....

    PS. Does'nt matter anyway, I can walk to the practise in 6 mins or call a taxi, and say when I get there... its quicker and cheaper to get a taxi here that wait in your ^**&$%*&%ing call queuing system..

  16. crediblywitless

    "By putting consumers at the heart of what they do, businesses can prevent customers from taking their custom elsewhere, which is good for consumers and good for business". Wrong. If the awkward customers - the ones who bother to complain - go elsewhere, and the straightforward customers stay, _that's_ good for business. Churn is OK; there's always another customer coming.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EE Mobile Broadband

    Got a mobile broadband contract with EE with a 5GB monthly limit, but was soon going over this so had to pay for the overuse. Fair comment. Upgraded to 10GB a month and was using 7.5 - 8GB a month. EE said that I was abusing the usage and strangled the speed. No letters or emails, just strangled speed. I couldn't see the point of going back to dial-up modem speeds so binned the service.

    What other company tells you that you can use up to so much of their product, but stop you using the product when you don't use your limit? I regret not going to OFCOM.

  18. rtb61

    Outsourcing Far More Expensive

    Here is what outsourcing customer support really achieves. The out sourcers get paid per call, so the sooner they can get away with hanging up without providing any service, the quicker you will make the next call. Instead of one call handled properly, now half a dozen need to be made, more profit and the knob head bean counter claims those 6 calls would have cost more because no one can prove only 1 properly handled call would have cost less.

    The keep outsourcing because the spreadsheets of idiot bean counters say so and it keeps costing the more.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing Far More Expensive

      Pretty sure first contact resolution % would be part of the PLA in that contract.

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