Internet connectivity is everywhere you look, from PCs to smart phones to games consoles, whether it’s delivered over cables, phone lines or even wirelessly. For most of us, we don’t really think about our Internet Service Provider (ISP) except in two key areas. Firstly, there’s the time when we’ve got to pay the bill, although with bundling and direct debits quite normal for most ISPs you may never even think about that. Competition is still fierce and the price of both wireless and fixed line broadband services still continues to tumble on a per-gigabyte basis.
The other time, of course, is when things go wrong. When your connection is slow, flaky, or worst of all inexplicably “down”, you’re going to want to know why, and fast. Quite how your ISP responds (if they respond at all) will form a big part of how you relate to them, as beyond picking your plan details, it’s the primary time that you do relate to them at all. If the support person has an impenetrable accent, a poor line connection, baffles you with jargon or rigidly sticks to a support script that doesn’t help you in the least, it can quickly get annoying.
A recent Roy Morgan poll of ISP Satisfaction ratings reveals some interesting figures. Overall, ISPs must be getting something right. In the six month period from July to December 2009, 73.3% of surveyed customers were at least “satisfied”. Of those, 43.7 were “Fairly Satisfied” and 29.6%” were “Very Satisfied”. Breaking it out into the actual providers reveals a lot more detail. Internode (90.3% satisfied) and iiNet (86.8%) customers seemed happiest with their service.
The wooden spoons — those ISPs whose customers fell below the 73.3% industry average — fared worse. Amongst the major players, these included dodo (66.9%), Telstra BigPond (66.1%) and iPrimus (65.1%). The interesting thing there is the gap between the the bottom rung and top rung, which Roy Morgan notes is higher than in other service industries. In other words, where you might expect a small gap between ISPs depending on how cranky given customers were, it’s odd that it’s this large. Either the good guys are exceptionally good, or the bad guys are doing particularly poorly. Telstra’s a particularly interesting case, as they’ve still got the lion’s share of the overall market. Are Telstra customers more irritable with some facet of their service, or does the number of customers give rise to a higher level of “squeaky wheel” dissatisfaction?
So what can an ISP do to “improve” customer satisfaction, given that in an ideal world, the only time you’d even notice your ISP is if they improved your service?