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Ofcom reveals the winners and losers of mobile customer service

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Ofcom has warned mobile phone providers over “hit and miss” customer service.

A report into customer service satisfaction by the telecoms regulator found that, despite general customer satisfaction levels being high, specific areas like complaints handling and call-waiting times need to be improved.

The impact of Covid-19 led to call-waiting times doubling between 2019 and 2020 from an average of 1 minute 18 seconds to 2 minutes 7 seconds. This rose even further in 2021 to an average wait time of 2 minutes 15 seconds for customers trying to speak to their network.

The report found that O2 was the worst offender, with the network’s customers waiting an average 3 minutes 59 seconds. BT Mobile, EE, iD Mobile and Vodafone also saw their wait times rise from 2020. On the flipside, Three averaged just 16 seconds, making it the quickest to answer calls.

Average network call waiting times

  • Three: 16 seconds
  • BT: 55 seconds
  • ID Mobile: 1 minute 39 seconds
  • Sky: 1 minute 50 seconds
  • Virgin Media: 1 minute 59 seconds
  • Tesco Mobile: 2 minutes 15 seconds
  • EE 2 minutes: 25 seconds
  • Vodafone: 2 minutes 30 seconds
  • O2: 3 minutes 59 seconds

Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile actually reduced their call waiting times during 2021. But Three and Sky Mobile were the only networks to get their wait times back down to pre-Covid levels.

On the complaints side, the Ofcom research found that one in 10 mobile customers said they had complaints to raise with their network. However, only 43% of those customers felt their complaints were handled or resolved in a satisfactory manner.

Virgin Mobile (83%) had the lowest satisfaction scores compared to the national average (91%). While Tesco Mobile (96%) had the highest score, placing it significantly above the national average.

Ru Bhikha, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, says: “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.”

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