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Phone and broadband firms must improve customer service, warns Ofcom

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Telecoms companies must improve their customer service, treating complaints as a priority and ensuring it’s as simple to leave a service as it is to join, Ofcom has warned.

The regulator said that despite the efforts phone and broadband companies had made to help customers during the pandemic, including extra help for people in debt and removing broadband data caps, more must be done to support customers at all times.

Broadband and landline customers waited an average of four minutes and nine seconds to be put through to an advisor last year, which Ofcom claimed was around twice as long as they were expected to wait in 2019.

Mobile customers also waited an average of two minutes and seven seconds before their call was answered, up from one minute and 18 seconds in 2019.

Just over half of broadband (52 per cent) and mobile (57 per cent) customers said they were satisfied with how their complaints were handled, the research found.

Pedestrians wearing PPE of a face masks or coverings as a due to COVID-19, walk past a closed-down shop and a red telephone box in London on October 20, 2020. - Britain on Monday welcomed signals that the European Union was ready to intensify stalled post-Brexit trade talks, but said its commitments did not yet go far enough to restart face-to-face negotiations. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Ofcom expects pressure on telecoms companies to lift as the UK opens up post-pandemic (AFP via Getty)

Satisfaction with broadband and mobile services was high overall, with eight in 10 internet and nine in 10 mobile customers telling Ofcom they were happy with their provider’s service.

The regulator said that some firms had struggled more than others to bring their call waiting times back to pre-pandemic levels and that it expected to see an improvement in service as lockdown restrictions began to ease.

“Telecoms companies adapted quickly to meet soaring demand for their services last year – helping to keep the country connected,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director.

“But some have struggled with customer service problems. We’re challenging them to act now, so the telecoms industry becomes the gold standard for customer service.”

The number of homes in the UK without internet fell by just under half during the pandemic as previously unconnected premises went online for the first time.

While around 11 per cent of homes did not have internet when the first lockdown came into effect in March 2020, that proportion had fallen to 6 per cent 12 months later – the equivalent of around 1.5 million homes.

The majority of adults without a connection at home either found the internet too complicated or were not interested in having access to it, while others cited a lack of equipment, Ofcom found.


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