UK Home Broadband Social Media Monitoring Prepared by: Metro Research
Active Listening to social media channels What have we been listening to? Blogs Online news Customers discussions on forums Consumers’ comments posted as responses to broadband – related articles Twitter Facebook groups Why? “The key value of social media lies in finding out the questions being asked, as opposed to the actual answers” (B2B Marketing, September 2010)
Key Objectives To understand consumers’ perceptions of connectivity and expectations of broadband service and communications To provide us with a better understanding of contextual factors that could impact on consumers’ broadband perceptions and decision making To have an overall picture* of most frequent connectivity issues that consumers complain about and identify the language they use to describe them*This was not intended to be a quantitative analysis looking at number of mentions of a certain issue / broadband provider, but a qualitative analysis of key issues expressed by consumers N.B The key limitation of social media is that these channels often only reflect the web savvy and the opinionated (so most of consumers’ comments are negative) – therefore there is an inherent bias.
In the news, July 2011 The latest report published by Ofcom on 27 July 2011 was by far the key news in the industry (results were published in all major UK news sources and key technology & telecoms specialist blogs, or tweeted by a vast amount of consumers) KEY TAKE-OUTS: Over 75% of UK home broadband connections are currently delivered by copper lines (speeds vary according to distance from exchange) The average advertised broadband speed in the Uk is 15Kbps, however the average achieved speed is about half, 8.2 Kbps The gap between advertised speeds and actual speeds widened from the last Ofcom study in 2010 Another Ofcom study looking at Almost half of UK residential customers are on packages with advertisedcustomer satisfaction of telecom speeds above 10 Mbpsproviders was published in July 2011. However superfast broadband is available to about half of customers in theThis showed that: UK; moreover, the gaps between advertised and actual speeds for superfast About a quarter of TalkTalk’s customers connections are not as significant as for copper lines connections (e.g Virgin were dissatisfied with the customer service Media up to 50 Mbps; BT Infinity up to 40 Mbps) Other reasons for overall consumers’ Download speed is the main performance measure by which broadband dissatisfaction were: speeds; difficulty of services are advertised; however there are other criteria, like upload speeds for changing tariffs; unexpectedly high bills example, which are important especially for users of Skype or other real time Top 2 providers in terms of customer video communications service levels were Orange and BSkyB Limitations of this study: small providers Ofcom continue to be concerned by the fact that customers are being misled (with less than 4% market share) were by advertised ‘up to’ speeds, and have recommended to the ASA that ISPs excluded include ‘typical speeds range’ (TSR) data in their marketing. The revised Code of A similar study by Broadbandchoice conducted Practice for broadband speeds is also effective from today and includes anearlier this year suggested that BE Broadband, O2 amendment which allows customers “to leave their provider without penalty ifand Plusnet provided the highest levels of customer they receive a maximum line speed which is significantly lower than the bottomcare in 2011 of the estimated range, and ISPs are not able to resolve the problem.”
In the news, July 2011 (2) New Ofcom rules will lead to lower prices for UK rural broadbandThe independent regulator plans to significantly reduce the prices that BT Wholesalecan charge ISPs in rural and less densely populated areas. By cutting prices by 12percent below inflation per year, providers wont have to pay as much to borrow BTsnetworks and exchanges. However this price reduction only refers to up to 8Mbpsconnections, not the 24 Mbps and superfast, fibre optic services. At the same time, the UK Government is planning to fund broadbandupgrades in cities (high speed connectivity – over 24Mbps speeds - to be brought inmost communities in the UK by 2015) BT copper broadband upgrade now hitting 2.5 mil extra homes andbusinesses; up to 20 Mbps service will reach 90 % of UK premises by 2013 rollout will reach 800 extra exchanges, half of each will be located in rural areas BT is also investing £2.5 mil in next generation superfast broadband Virgin Media announced that it has completed a successful trialdelivering speeds of 1.5Gpbs over its existing cable infrastructure. The trialwas conducted on a single road in London (Old Street), part of an area that has beendubbed the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ by members of the local tech community known asthe ‘TechHub’. The demonstration was just a showcase and will not be a consumerreality anytime soon, but the speeds were achieved by bonding together multipledownstream and upstream channels of Virgin’s DOCSIS 3.0 cable network Virgin Media plans to rollout a free WiFi service in London, competingagainst BTs OpenZone; the achievable speeds are supposed to reach 10Mbps
In the news, July 2011 (3) A map showing connectivity strength was published by Ofcom in July2011, identifying Hull as the area with the slowest broadband speed inthe UK. According to The Guardian, the current broadband market shares areas follows: BT 29% Virgin Media 21.5% TalkTalk 21% Sky 16% Orange 3.6% O2 3.5% Based on the figures after the second quarter, BT and BSkyB lead thebattle – having the highest numbers of new subscribers amongst allmajor UK ISP providers BT acquired 141,000 subscribers in the last 3 months (which accounted for 60% of all new customers in the quarter) Virgin Media lost 18,600 customers TalkTalk lost 27,000 customers. However a slight improvement in TalkTalk’s customer service was reported this quarter: calls to helplines have halved, and 75% of new customers were connected within 20 days TalkTalk has been unable to attract many of its customers onto theirnew up to 40Mbps Fibre Boost service 1,000 take-ups at the end of the second quarter, compared to 4,000+ new subscriptions per week reported by main competitor BT Infinity
In the news, July 2011 (4) RELATED TRENDS: Over 3 mil UK households rely on mobile broadband for Internet, according to research conducted by Ofcom between September and December 2010 7% of UK households use mobile devices exclusively to connect to the Internet 17% of UK households use mobile broadband at home, instead of fixed broadband connections The average speeds achieved via mobile broadband connections are 1.5 Mbps, as opposed to an average of just under 7 Mbps for fixed connections New ways to watch film and TV: increased popularity of online streaming and video on demand services (BBC iPlayer, movies downloaded from Playstation3, iTunes, lovefilm.com) BT was ordered to block customers’ access to the so-called piracy website Newzbin Similar pressures from copyright associations and regulators are likely to affect other internet providersBROADBAND ADVERTISING Virgin Media was recently told by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority not to run 10 adverts again after upholding complaints fromrivals over the accuracy of claims in the ads. In one ad Virgin claimed that its service was twice as fast as that of rival BT’s but the ASAagreed that this did not take into accounts BT’s faster Infinity service. BT Infinity and Virgin Media’s service are hybrid optical networks –fibre optic to a local cabinet with coaxial and copper from there to the premises. Similarly, TalkTalk’s saving claims in one of its adverts were considered ‘exaggerated, misleading and unsubstantiated’, according to theadvertising regulator. The advert was likely to lead customers of TalkTalks competitors to think that they would definitely save more than£140 by switching their phone and broadband services to TalkTalk, the ASA said. This overstated the benefits of switching provider andbroke broadcast advertising rules, the advertising regulator said;
More in depthBeyond background research and news published on news sites or specialist blogs, we looked at the ‘voice of the customer’ online, expressed on forums and discussions posted as a result of some broadband – related articles.
The overall picture No major differences between various providers; for most customers the issues were similar, no matter of what provider they were with It is difficult to separate connectivity issues from customer service, as most of the times issues are reported to Customer Service operators. Therefore the perception they have of the technical fault is either made worse by a poor customer service experience, or attenuated because of a good performance of the call centre or technical helpline Most of the comments are negative – but we need to bear in mind that frustrations rather than positive experiences are generally expressed through online conversations
What areconsumerstalking abouton forums? Three key areas: Connection Customer support Billing issues
Connectivity Frustrations “Broadband speeds are a postcode lottery” (consumer complaining on ukbroadbandforum.co.uk) Slow speeds: it gets really frustrating for consumers paying for ‘up to 10 Mbps’ packages and getting less then 2 Mbps confusion around providers’ promises, given that consumers are aware of the fact that actual speeds depend on the quality of the line and distance from the exchange (Why are competitors offering better speeds, if the line’s capacity is limited?) Speed inconsistency; drop-outs Traffic management (especially during peak times) Some more tech savvy consumers are aware that this might not happen with business providers (Zen, Eclipse have been mentioned) – but are not ready to pay a higher price Video streaming problems (frustrating for online TV users, gamers and heavy Skype users) Consistency of connection (no drop-outs) as well as unlimited downloads are even more important for home workers Fibre optic developments have certainly raised consumers’ expectations More tolerance from people living in rural areas, as there is less choice However London based users (and major UK cities) get extremely frustrated when they check the speeds regularly (using various online speed checking applications) and these don’t go much higher than dial- ups connections used years ago
Connectivity Frustrations – in their own words... It seems to take forever to actually connect when switched on - Ive taken to switching on and going away to read the paper and have a cup of coffee whilst it decides to connect - or not. Broadband connection drops sporadically. Some It disconnects every morning approx 5 times days itll be fine and when I attempt to use internet for the first stable, but others its time. Then again approx 4 times when my boy flakey - for instance its connects Xbox 360 in the early evening, and dropped 3 times today finally disconnects in the evening when I try and already. read emails. When I start to use the internet it crashes. When I use Skype the video is very blocky Im currently with Be. I pay and freezes sometimes. Skype reports for their ‘up to 20Mb/s’ that my connection is bad and suggests I service and actually get a sync turn off video but my son and grandson speed of 5Mb/s. live in Australia so Skype is an essential application for me and my wife. We now only get link speeds of ~800kbps down / ~800kbps up however we no longerOver a 3 month period the fastest we ever got suffer from drop outs. So it would seem thatwas 0.28mb up and 0.45mb down - about the while up to 2mbps is possible down the line,same speed as I had 10 years ago in the max stable speed is less than half of that!Cambridgeshire with an ASDL line.
Connectivity: key words Connection Speed dips Service went keeps down cutting off Constant loss Internet is non of connection Speed responsive drops Connection Line drop-out crashing Fluctuating speed Intermittent speed
Customer Services Whenever consumers complain about customerservices, the first thing they mention is related tothe fact that they’re not based in the UK. Besides the language barriers, there are other issues regarding foreign call centres: operators’ attitude (perceived as rather ‘aggressive’; it seems they don’t care enough about UK based consumers); it feels they have no real understanding of the UK consumer base and broadband; they do not enough authority to solve issues quickly) Other issues with customer service, regardless ofwhere they are based are: Other important areas where difficult to go through, long waiting times operators focus more on going through scripts, as opposed to dealing issues seem to arise are: with the actual problem and offering a bespoke solution set-up: takes too long; engineers fail to show being passed on to various operators (and having to explain the issue up within the agreed time slots; providers are not every time consumers get connected to another operator); more always able to manage the switchover smoothly, frustrating when customers get contradicting information from various so customers get ‘caught’ without an Internet operators connection and between two providers blaming nobody being able to take responsibility for issues; constantly blaming each other issues on either the quality of PCs, routers which have been purchased whenever fixing a technical fault involves having from other sources than the provider, BT lines or engineers etc. an engineer being sent to the house, the time it sales and marketing calls at ‘odd’ times of the day (either late in the takes to do that is not acceptable (24 hours is evening or during weekends); also sales operators are not aware of usage expected) patterns of the account holder and try to sell services which are not also, consumers get frustrated whenever they’re relevant; moreover, there have been situations in which some customers supposed to be called back for follow-up on have had new services added on their account without acknowledging issues, and this doesn’t happen they have signed up for anything
Customer Service Frustrations – in their own words... Just had to contact my ISP for a MAC code and its taken a total of 1hour and 12 mins to get anywhere (they cut me off twice after 20 odd minutes of waiting). Even now they cant give me this damn code over the phone...I have to wait for them to email it! Im just pretty annoyed with the shambolic O2 customer services cant agree on this service (so called) each time I phone them one. Ive been told by one lady that I can they seem to milk you for every penny they cancel using the happiness guarantee and by can get. Never get a straight answer and two gentlemen that I am outside of my 14 you are always put on hold.....and that’s day cooling off period as my change of after going through endless daft menus. broadband was classed as an upgrade. If O2 customer services dont know whichAvoid BT for BB. Their support applies what chance have I got?is a total disaster I received no help from their so called tecs, all based in India by the way, and very few speaking English and as far as I am concerned none of them had any IT knowledge. I had five months of hell with them having my broadband and phone cut off on a regular period for no reason and then having to go through procedure after procedure just to hang on the line for 45 Mins to either again being cut off or ending up speaking to a lady in Katmando whos no WAS PRIVATE.I ditched BT as their customer servicewas terrible and it is helpful if you can at I just wanted to sound a word of caution toleast understand what they are saying to anyone who might be thinking of ordering BTsyou Infinity high speed broadband product. You may find that youre waiting a long, long time for them to get round to installing it, or that youll take time off work to meet an engineer who doesnt turn up, perhaps more than once.
Billing issues Billing inaccuracies are another ‘hot topic’ debated on online forums Consumers generally mention the following as the most frequentfrustrating situations: unexpectedly high bills due to a lack of transparency in explaining the pricing before signing up (e.g no unlimited downloads) one – off fees when signing up for an additional service with the same provider difficulty in cancelling direct debits and still receiving bills after switching providers Most often billing issues seem to appear when: switching providers moving home adding new services or changing existing services on the account Beyond the frustration of receiving an unexpected bill, there are otherthings aggravating the overall experience: providers not being able to acknowledge their mistakes and sort things out quickly (so customers need to chase) a feeling of being ‘tricked’ into signing up for a service without having a full awareness of all the extra charges incurred
Billing Issues– in their own words... To my horror and bemusement there was a Direct Debit withdrawal of £30.63 recurring on or around the 27th of each month, even though I had cancelled my contract for two months. I had spoken to someone in billing and that they had conceded their had been a problem with their cancellation system - something to do with it being on an older system. £13 a month and that was it. What I didnt understand and what they didnt have to explain were the streaming charges. In the end, for skyping around 2 min. with my husband cost us £60.00.I phoned Sky, informed them of the problem and was Even though my daughter cancelled her direct debit with TalkTalkassured that my bill would be amended after 3 days. It and with her bank, TalkTalk still took a penalisation fee and refusewasn‘t, phoned twice more and was given the same to repay it even though the contract had run longer than theassurances. Three times I told them my bill was wrong, minimum time the contract stipulated. They refuse to co-operate,three times they agreed, three times they assured me it and it takes months and months of hassle to get Ofcom (orwould be amended, yet they willingly took money from whoever) to do anything to help.my account and nothing was done I cancelled my contract with Virgin in Nov 2010. I am still getting bills from them despite numerous phone calls & letters They never pass on information keep you on hold for ever then you get put through to a different person & have to relay all your information again costing you money
Communications Advertising based on “up to” speeds is confusing for many consumers, especially the ones who had speed issues with previous providers. As they have no indications of minimum guaranteed speeds, they can get quite cynical about this type of advertising.Frankly, the way advertising for broadband or ISP I live in a major conurbation a mile away from theproviders in this country works is a national hub exchange and I get one-third the advertisedscandal. Theyre advertising "up to" rates that "up to rate". And thats only after filing more thanthey damn well know the majority of their one complaint. Before that I didnt even get acustomers are not going to get even half way quarternear. Its a disgrace. Unfortunately the mass public know very little about broadband technology. BT knows this. As a result they sell their broadband based on very slick advertising selling everything but the broadband itself:€ “a fancy looking router, standard WiFi, cloud storage etc. They then supplement with it lots of bold statements followed by ** and then two pages of terms basically explaining that the statement with the ** next to it is not actually true.
Going forward Directions for further researchAfter identifying the key frustrations that consumers have with their home broadband,as well as the context in which future decision making will take place, further explorationcould include: a more in depth understanding of consumers’ home set-up and online behaviour (ideally through qualitativemethods: ethnography, in-depth interviewing, online qualitative) understanding expectations of service, decision making and customer journeys for specific target audiences (werecommend a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods e.g start with a quantitative survey, followed byfocus groups and online qualitative methods) in-depth exploration of connectivity issues and customers’ reactions to these (through various qualitativemethods, both online and offline) identifying the most effective ways of communicating key brand benefits (broadband providers could use thislearning in future communication campaigns) communications / concept testing engaging consumers in offering their suggestions about new services which can be developed, or suggestimprovements to existing services (co-creation and collaboration: online qualitative methods followed by ideageneration workshops)
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