Updated Cheapo MVNOs have again scored far higher than the UK's big four mobile networks in Which? magazine's customer satisfaction ratings.
For the second year running, the survey put the big four – EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three – bottom of the table for customer experience.
GiffGaff and Utility Warehouse again took the two top spots, swapping places for Telefónica's wholly owned Giffgaff brand to take first. Predictably, Sky, Plusnet, Tesco and Asda followed in the rankings – just as they did last year.
The survey sampled over 6,000 punters for their experience with customer service, ease of contact, value for money and incentives.
Vodafone and EE again vied for last place.
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Both have been stung by Ofcom for billing issues, with Vodafone slapped with a record £4.6m fine in 2016. Since then Voda has taken more than 2,000 customer service jobs in-house and introduced a 30-day service guarantee. EE has also been "reshoring" services.
So Vodafone contract customers are likely to talk to a UK service agent – but prepay punters are likely to get an offshore call centre. And don't even try managing your family's mixture of contract and prepay SIMs from the app, or with the same person – different operations, you see.*
By contrast, Giffgaff doesn't offer customer phone service at all – you must deal with email. And it too has had billing problems, one of which prompted a fairly swift refund. It doesn't seem to have done them any harm, though, as their satisfaction rating increased.
By contrast, O2 could have expected to fall further after a total call and data outage affected over 30 million customers at the end of last year.
Giffgaff's top spot is a remarkable achievement considering its rocky start. Downtime was so commonplace that we ran a reader poll of our own, asking: "When Giffgaff falls over, is it even news any more? (Or should we only report when it works for a bit)". Giffgaff is bafflingly perceived as a plucky, customer-friendly startup when it's a brand of a multinational giant. But British punters love value for money, and the self-service concept came of age with the smartphone, making administering your top-ups and bundles trivial.
We contacted the wooden spoonists, EE and Vodafone, for comment. ®
At a recent Westminster Forum panel discussion on how to sell 5G to the public, this Reg journo advised the networks to get far better at service, matching the ease of use of an Amazon or Apple store, rather than selling us faster speeds. I'm not holding my breath.
Updated to add
EE got in touch to say: "As this report recognises, we're ranked top by Opensignal for mobile experience in the UK which is supported by other independent reports from Ofcom and RootMetrics. Ofcom’s latest figures also show that EE receives among the fewest complaints in the mobile industry, as we've continued to invest in the UK's best customer service.
"We're bringing the best experience and service in the UK to our customers, with 100 per cent UK & Ireland call centres, continued investment in the UK's best network, generous data allowances, and access to great benefits and content including BT Sport, Apple Music and Amazon Prime."