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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