Complaints in the mobile sector are plummeting as a consequence of Ofcom’s quarterly complaints report and a general operator focus on improving customer service.
The average number of complaints recorded by Ofcom fell to 0.06 per 1,000 people in Q4 2013 compared to 0.19 over the same period in 2011. Director of consumer policy at Ofcom, Chris Taylor, claimed that improvements coincided with the watchdog publishing regular reports.
He told Mobile: ‘Trends show that complaints have declined over the time this data has been published and I think these reports have definitely had an effect. If we publish comparative data operators tend to take notice as none want to be known as the least customer friendly – it’s a competitive environment with commercial interests.
‘However, this data is generated by complaints coming direct to Ofcom, while many unsatisfied customers will go to their provider first and then the Ombudsman.’
In fact, data from the Communication Ombudsman revealed a slightly different picture. Mobile operator complaints counted in Q4 2013 reached 1,423 compared to 1,249 reported in Q4 2012, representing an increase of almost 200. In February the Communication Ombudsman received 539 grievances compared to a 27-month average of 450.
Operators have generally been investing in the improvement of their customer service practices, however. Three made the most eye-catching improvement in Ofcom’s most recent report. In Q4 2011 the operator was the second most complained about network after Orange with 0.19 issues per 1,000 customers. That number has dropped to 0.033 in Q4 2013 – almost in line with market leaders O2 (0.029).
Three chief operating officer Graham Baxter told Mobile: ‘Three years ago we made a significant shift in our approach and resolved to put customers at the heart of our thinking. The progress we’ve made – both by meeting customers’ expectations and getting better at addressing issues when they arise – reflects efforts made across the entire business from our customer centres through to our stores. We won’t stop here as we recognise there is plenty more we can do to help make mobile better.’
Orange and T-Mobile received the most complaints for the fifth consecutive quarter, although these have been declining for the last four quarters. Orange received 0.12 complaints per 1,000 customers compared to T-Mobile’s 0.11, and parent company EE is working to improve these figures.
Last month EE director of indirect partnerships Noel Hamill told Mobile that the operator wanted to become number one for service as well as number one for network. The UK’s largest network revealed in February that it was bringing over 1,000 customer service jobs back to the UK and is spending over £50m in its internal systems to improve performance.
O2 remained ahead of the pack with a ‘focus on delivering the best service for its customers’, while Vodafone complaints were under industry average for the fifth consecutive quarter. A Vodafone spokesperson said: ‘Our customer advisers receive regular training to help them give the best service possible and we make sure our customers can get in touch with us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – online through our live web chat, on our eForum, through Facebook and Twitter, over the phone and in store.’