UK Broadband ISP Email Support Quality Rated - ISPreview
UK Broadband ISP Email Support Quality Rated
By: Mark Jackson - May 26th, 2009 : Page 1 -of- 5
"we were keen to discover whether UK broadband ISPs could still provide an effective and useful level of email support to their customers"

Have you ever wanted to seek help or advice from an ISP without using the phone line? Perhaps your location (e.g. work) makes it too difficult to use the phone or the providers voice lines might be too expensive, maybe you suffer from hearing problems. Either way, the ability of an ISP to offer fast and effective customer sales and support advice via email is often crucially important.

Naturally we were keen to discover whether UK broadband ISPs could still provide an effective and useful level of email support and advice to potential customers. To do this we devised a simple, if admittedly somewhat anecdotal, test that would involve the emailing of several general questions about broadband services to nineteen of the UK’s best known and largely independent ISPs.

How we rated

We decided that the test would need to be conducted over a two week period, thus allowing ISPs plenty of time to get their replies in. The questions were sent in simple text format via two newly created email addresses and from completely different domains (one sent via Gmail), which helped avoid being caught by spam filters. If we failed to receive a reply to the first email then the message would be re-issued from our second address, affording the ISP a second chance.

It’s important to remember that email is not a perfect platform and messages can go missing, thus we decided that ISPs should not suffer a penalty if they replied to the second but not the first message. Naturally we would exclude any auto-responders; instead scoring only began with the first human reply.

The four questions we chose to send ISPs would need to be valid for every provider and require a standard degree of familiarity with the service to answer; they would also need to be answerable by any department of the ISP and the message itself was made to appear as if it had come from an interested consumer. This proved difficult but in the end we came up with these:

1. What broadband technology does the service use (e.g. ADSL2+)?

Reason: Any sale, services or support staff should know the answer to this.
 
2. What Ofcom-approved ADR complaints handler is your ISP a member of (e.g. OTELO)?

Reason: Every UK ISP is required to me a member of an Ofcom approved ADR dispute resolution scheme for dealing with customer complaints. Presently there are only two – CISAS and OTELO.
 
3. Which wireless encryption method is best to use with your service, WPA, WEP or WPA2?

Reason: The correct answer would be WPA2, though we quickly recognised that any ISP responding to list what methods were supported by their modem/router hardware would also be a fair answer.
 
4. Does your service block or restrict traffic to port 80?

Reason: This is a trick question - port 80 is used for common web server traffic (i.e. websites/http etc.) and is highly unlikely to ever be blocked by a consumer ISP.

To score, we gave each ISP a default of 7 points; any provider responding within the first day would thus gain the full 7 points and any that failed to reply after 14 days would be awarded 0 (i.e. -0.5 per day). Likewise we would award an additional point for each correctly answered question (maximum of 4 for four questions). The best total score would thus be 11.

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Mark (ISPreview)
Posted 2030 days ago
QUOTE: "Your published scoring system gave 7 points for replying within 24 hours, not points for the order in which replies were received. The top 5 were joint first."

Technically true, though as stated in the article - where ISPs tied with the same score then the one that reached our inbox first should appear higher up. So while we didn't score by hours, we did use that to help adjust the order. Hope that helps.
Dusty Miller
Posted 2031 days ago
Having been with IDNet previously I found their email support to be quite decent and fast, but since joining AAISP I've been blown away by how good their communication is. You get a reply *very* quickly and it's got a code in the title so the right person deals with your queries. Not only that but they are PRO-ACTIVE, often emailing to update you with progress and check how things are, and even remembering things you've said so they can anticipate what you need next. ie. once they got my line fixed properly :-)) I got an email confirming if I wanted back on fastpath now cos I'd mentioned it once in an earlier email. Really makes you feel special and like they genuinely care... I so hope they don't get too popular that they suffer for it, yet I wish them the success they deserve...
Jim Howes
Posted 2031 days ago
One of the most depressing things about calling the support line of an ISP is that many of the firms treat the customer as a drooling idiot. Very few are willing to talk in technical detail to their customers. While hand-holding of real drooling idiots is commendable, it should not be the default, and certainly should never be the only level at which ISP support staff communicate. Once again, it is the large companies that come out badly in this respect; Virgin, Tiscali, and BT need constant reminders that some of their customers can plug in an ADSL modem without injuring themselves. AAISP have always been frank, honest, and fast to respond to technical queries. Demon used to be, but have got too large to be able to these days, it seems, and as for the 'Big boys', well, your experience is only the beginning of the nightmare that their customers face every day.
Ozymandias
Posted 2032 days ago
Your published scoring system gave 7 points for replying within 24 hours, not points for the order in which replies were received. The top 5 were joint first.

It should also be noted that some of the top 5 as well as having excellent email support also have enthusiastic support forums, which usually offer answers within minutes 24/7. Some even offer 0800 telephone support !
 

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