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Big UK ISPs Should Make Critical Support Contacts Easier to Find

Posted Monday, May 13th, 2013 (2:20 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,352)
computer user

At some point nearly all of us, for good or ill, will need to contact our broadband ISP or phone provider but how hard is it to find the correct details and what sort of support services are on offer? ISPreview.co.uk took a long look at ten of the UK’s best known providers to see how they compared.

Sometimes the simplest things can end up being the most frustrating, such as trying to find the right department for your needs. Believe it or not some ISPs turn trying to locate even the most straightforward bits of information, such as a viable phone number or email address for customer support, into an incredibly tedious experience.

Naturally we wanted to know how widespread this problem was and whether or not some ISPs could improve their access to vital points of contact. In order to do this we took a look at ten of the markets providers, both big and small alike, and gave each a score based on how easy it was to locate their support contacts for email, phone, postal addresses, twitter, facebook, live chat and discussion forums.

Scoring

ISPreview.co.uk gave 1 point for any individual support service that we could find and a bonus of 1 point if that service was located quickly (e.g. ideally within a click or two from the main website page and without excess trial and error during the hunting phase). In an ideal world it should only take a moment to find the right details.

However any contact service that did exist but which took longer to locate (several minutes), and couldn’t easily be found by following a logical human search (e.g. clicking through from a ‘Help’ or ‘Contact’ link), was given a negative mark of -0.5.

In other words the highest that any of the seven rated support services could score was 2 points each (0 being the lowest) and the highest overall total score per ISP is 14 points (7 x 2). Take note that we were not testing the quality of customer support, only how easy it is to locate the necessary contacts.

For example, we know that TalkTalk has a twitter feed (1 point) but as most of us failed to find where it was listed on their website, and after quite a bit of digging too, then a penalty (-0.5) was awarded. The total score came to 0.5 out of a possible maximum of 2 points for the ISPs Twitter service.

Ultimately we deemed that if none of our test group (five people including myself) could locate the service then others were likely to face similar difficulties in locating their preferred point of contact. Experiences will vary (subjective test) but feel free to try it yourselves.

General Observations

The results were mixed, although Zen Internet topped our table by not only offering all seven of the contact services but also making them both quick and easy to find; often just by clicking through from the ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Help’ link. Both EE and TalkTalk also did similarly well, which is interesting because both providers have in the recent past been chastised for failings in the quality of their support. This just goes to show that making a contact easy to find is only part of the battle.

Now you might think that all ISPs would be like this but sadly that’s not the case. In particular we were a little surprised to find that Virgin Media came bottom of the table. Nearly all of us struggled to find a viable postal contact for their customer support and found it similarly difficult to locate their Twitter, Facebook and Live Chat services.

Elsewhere the biggest frustration we found was a tendency by some providers to force customers into what can only be described as a vicious cycle of page clicking, where attempts to find a workable contact would often lead you right back to where you started or simply offer nowhere else to go. Perhaps some providers would rather save money on staff by having you give up before getting to the right place.

We’ve summarised the individual results below and ordered them by highest rated first.

The Results

Zen Internet

Keep it simple. This appears to be Zen’s apparently successful approach to making its various support contacts both clear and accessible. Quite simply everything you’re likely to need in order to contact their various customer support services is immediately displayed upon clicking either the ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Help & Support’ links. Easy peasy and a benchmark that others should follow.

SCORES
Forum: 2
Twitter: 2
Live Chat: 2
Facebook: 2
Phone Number: 2
Email: 2
Postal Address: 2

TOTAL: 14

EE

EE also made it incredibly easy to find practically every possible contact method simply by following the main “Get in touch” link on their website. The one feature that took time to locate was their live chat service, which only appears to be available through the operators members-only account pages. Being a mobile operator EE also has hundreds of high street stores around the country and if we were also counting those then they might well have come top.

SCORES
Forum: 2
Twitter: 2
Live Chat: 0.5
Facebook: 2
Phone Number: 2
Email: 2
Postal Address: 2

TOTAL: 12.5

TalkTalk

It might surprise some people, especially given TalkTalk’s shaky history of customer support quality, to learn that they actually turned out to be one of the best ISPs for finding the correct contacts and related services. In fact practically everything you could want was listed clearly and simply under the ‘Contact Us’ link.

The only service we had trouble finding was Facebook, although TalkTalk do have a presence on the social network.

SCORES
Forum: 2
Twitter: 2
Live Chat: 2
Facebook: 0.5
Phone Number: 2
Email: 2
Postal Address: 2

TOTAL: 12.5

Eclipse Internet

Broadly speaking Eclipse also made all of its support contacts both quick and easy to find. The only negative appeared to be the lack of a customer support forum, which most other providers tend to have. Otherwise Eclipse did a good job.

SCORES
Forum: 0
Twitter: 2
Live Chat: 2
Facebook: 2
Phone Number: 2
Email: 2
Postal Address: 2

TOTAL: 12

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8 Responses
  1. onephat

    Sky are shocking. First you have to fight your way through 3 million questions on their site. Then battle web support – why can’t you just advertise your number, if I wanted web support I’d use it. After that you have press 1 for this 2 for that. My guess is no matter what your press the call goes through to the same team !!. Just give me one number no options – simple. Rant over

    • Timeless

      lve not found that that bad, live chat can be annoying as your speaking to an indian tech who has no real power to help, so in that respect l only use them when l need to ask about outages and non-account related questions.

      as for phone support when lve phoned them they have been pretty helpful.. but equally lm not all that bothered mainly because l use their free phone number :D

      as for questions, they do have that thing which directs you to different depts.. from last l used it, it seems there are just three questions before you get to the numbers/live chat links.

  2. JNeuhoff

    Actually, we always found BTs customer support to be of the poorest quality, can’t get worse than simply not answering our enquiries. BTs website is a true mess, too, so is BTs phone support.

  3. Chris C

    I think the article would have done better to add points for support been uk based, and technical based, also scoring for facebook which shouldnt even be used for business support communications is probably giving free points. Also I would have scored for response time. eg. Can post on BT’s forum for help but its a 5 day wait for a staff member to reply, VM likewise has wait times of many days. Whilst plusnet’s forum staff reply same day as long as its a working day, and I think talktalk the same. aaisp staff tend to reply fast on irc even at weekends. I lso would remove points if isp’s insist on doing dumb things like rebooting the pc and not understanding the problem, eg. when I tried to report a low sync speed fault to BT I got someone on the phone telling me about how I can reboot my pc into safe mode.

  4. Hi Mark,

    We do have a live chat service but it will only present itself during our sales journey IIRC.

    There isn’t a live chat facility for in-life support though, just pre-sales.

    Regards,

    Bob.

    • Trev

      So you are more helpful to your potential new business than to those you’ve already got signed up, that strikes warning bells for me.

    • Yes, very bad practice not to offer all support options to your existing (in-life) customers. All fur coat and no knickers.

  5. I find it crazy that the bigger a company gets the harder it is to talk to anyone in it! When the phone rings, just put me through to someone who can help – I really don’t want 100 options for this, that or the other. I just need a human to help!

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