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Consumer Choice of UK Broadband ISPs Impacted by Reputation

Monday, June 11th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 606
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How important is the perceived reputation of a broadband ISP when looking to switch providers? A new ISPreview.co.uk poll of 5,000 readers found 79.7% agreed that their choice could be impacted by reputation, while Sky Broadband and Virgin Media faired best among the largest four players.

People only need to look at the sharp decline in customer numbers that trailed the 2015 cyber-attack on TalkTalk’s website and member database to understand how difficult it is to recover from a bad hit to reputation. Word spreads fast in the online world and the more hits that an ISP takes, the harder it will be for them to recover.

Predictably it’s not just the big ticket fiascos that can damage a provider’s reputation. Slow erosion can also occur when ISPs allow common complaints, such as poor service or support quality and unfair practices (e.g. hitting your customers with too many price hikes in the same year), to become endemic for the brand.

Does an ISPs reputation impact your choice when you think of switching?
Yes – 79.7%
Maybe a little – 17.9%
No – 2.2%

In your view, what is BT’s reputation?
Poor – 78.4%
Average – 15.8%
Good – 5.7%

What is Virgin Media’s reputation?
Good – 68.7%
Average – 18.9%
Poor – 12.2%

What is Sky Broadband’s reputation?
Good – 67.5%
Average – 19.6%
Poor – 12.7%

What is TalkTalk’s reputation?

Poor – 34.4%
Average – 33.1%
Good – 32.4%

The fact that Sky Broadband and Virgin Media both have a distinctly more positive reputation among respondents is no great surprise. Both providers tend to attract significantly fewer consumer complaints (here) and Virgin are well known for offering the fastest widely available broadband speeds.

By comparison TalkTalk has been caught up in various problems over the years (the cyber attack is just one of the biggest examples) and meanwhile BT, being the largest overall broadband provider by some margin, will always tend to attract a large volume of gripes.

People also have a tendency to blame BT’s retail ISP for just about everything under the sun, including issues that aren’t even governed by them anymore (e.g. Openreach). So far nobody has blamed them for the death of Jesus or the rise of ISIS but you never know. However BT wouldn’t be the largest broadband ISP if a significant proportion of their customers weren’t at least a little bit satisfied.

At the end of the day reputation is a matter of personal perception and it may not always reflect reality. Luckily bad reputations do not have to be terminal and we’ve seen plenty of businesses recover by correcting their approach (TalkTalk is now back to growth). Often the worst thing that an ISP can do is try to sweep problems under the carpet or dismiss them out of hand and hope nobody noticed.

Nevertheless for many consumers it remains a simple case of once bitten, twice shy.

Meanwhile this month’s new survey asks whether or not you’d be willing to spend more in order to buy a house with your desired minimum broadband speed? Vote Here.

NOTE: ISPreview.co.uk surveys are likely to receive a higher proportion of tech-savvy respondents than most, although the majority of our visitors are normal consumers (i.e. they come to this site for help and assistance with basic broadband problems / questions or when hunting for a new ISP).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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1 Response
  1. Meadmodj

    As someone who worked for BT it comes as no surprise. Throughout my career I appeared to be defending BT. They used to say that if someone had a bad experience they would tell on average 9 other people. Now with social media and internet forums these bad experiences can be magnified. Whilst BT is not to always to blame (Ofcom comes to mind), and most broadband issues are in the home, there were missed opportunities. Here are some for UK broadband decisions I think BT got wrong.
    1) Use of overseas help desks
    2) Not ensuring the public clearly understand that BT has a USO for telephony, not broadband.
    3) Ignoring the importance of the NTE and the first install
    4) Internal reorganisations and fault management processes that resulted in a disproportional loss of network or local expertise too quickly.
    5) Not retaining a standard ADSL/VDSL modem (OR lines). BT could have a introduced a mass produced modem with integral line diagnostics and remote ISP setup. They and other ISPs could still offer their badged routers but the modem would have become the consistent handover point very close to the external line. It may have also reduced the multitude of hubs in our garages or down the dump caused by the constant switch your ISP game.
    6) Ignoring the Exchange Line Only community (odd as most housing density and commerce is in Cities, Towns and Villages where the Telephone Exchanges are. There were and are alternatives but it now needs FTTP.
    7) Taking too much notice of BT R&D (often reinventing the wheel) without looking properly at the attenuation graph for FTTC that says it all.
    8) Not managing expectation. Upto 17Mbps, Upto 38Mbps, Upto 70Mbps creates an expectation despite them knowing that the majority of lines simply cannot meet these. BT now shows line capability but really should charge by attainable speed bands to be fair. FTTC had its place initially but has become over hyped.
    9) No apparent proactive fault finding. If lines in a street all perform at speed X but there is a line performing badly at speed Y that should be investigated. Current line testing is based on telephony.
    10) Late commitment to Fibre Optics especially with network expansion and new builds which should have been FTTP long ago.
    11) Rejecting more flexible technologies or alternative approaches particularly for rural areas.

    BT will soon have a “Under New Management” sign up but many of the issues above are still current and fuel the criticism.

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