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Call waiting times for phone and broadband customer complaints are still above pre-pandemic levels as Ofcom warned firms about their poor performance.
Customers are experiencing “hit-and-miss” levels of customer service from major telecoms providers, with call-waiting times and complaints handling of particular concern, the regulator said.
The average time mobile customers had to wait to speak to their provider rose again in 2021 to two minutes and 15 seconds, having almost doubled between 2019 and 2018 due to the impact of the pandemic.
O2’s mobile customers were kept waiting the longest on average last year at three minutes and 59 seconds, while 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.
For broadband and landline, all major providers except KCOM 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.
KCOM customers had the longest average call waiting time last year at eight minutes and 53 seconds, which more than doubled from 2020.
NOW Broadband had the shortest average wait time, at 31 seconds.
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. This is 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 issue resolved. Among those whose complaints had been completely resolved, only 37% of broadband complaints, 40% of landline complaints and 43% of mobile complaints were completely resolved on first contact.
Virgin had lower than average overall satisfaction scores across the mobile, landline and broadband sectors, and it was the most complained-about broadband and mobile provider of the year.
Tesco Mobile was the only mobile provider to achieve a higher-than-average satisfaction level and also attracted the fewest complaints to Ofcom.
BT was the only provider in both the broadband and landline sectors to achieve a higher-than-average score for overall satisfaction.
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.”
A KCOM spokesman said: “The call waiting times in Ofcom’s report are disappointing and we apologise to any customers who waited longer than they should have to get through to our service teams.
“This was not the level of service that we expect or our customers deserve.
“We always strive to be there for our customers when they need us and we’re continuing to improve and invest in our people and technology to ensure our customers receive the best possible experience going forward.”