BigPond savages Whirlpool broadband survey

Australia's largest Internet service provider, BigPond has criticised the results of a survey in which most respondents rated its customer service as 'awful' or 'average'.A Telstra spokesperson described the survey -- where 22 percent of respondents who used BigPond rated its service as 'awful' and a further 43 percent as 'average' -- as using "extremely basic methodology," making invalid comparisons and skewed by the characteristics of its authors.

Australia's largest Internet service provider, BigPond has criticised the results of a survey in which most respondents rated its customer service as 'awful' or 'average'.

A Telstra spokesperson described the survey -- where 22 percent of respondents who used BigPond rated its service as 'awful' and a further 43 percent as 'average' -- as using "extremely basic methodology," making invalid comparisons and skewed by the characteristics of its authors.

The survey was conducted by broadband community site Whirlpool, whose users, Telstra claims, "are high-end ... rather than reflective of the general Internet-using community".

Some of the spokesperson's comments appear to be supported by survey data. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they worked in the IT sector in some capacity. Seventy-eight percent rated themselves as either a guru or power user when it came to computers, while only 2.4 percent said they were still learning or a beginner.

The spokesperson added "There also are clear anomalies. Two of the 'best performing' ISPs for answering the phone within a minute only take calls during business hours, Monday to Friday, compared with BigPond's 24/7 service."

The survey -- conducted online in November and December last year -- garnered about 13,000 responses.

While BigPond and TPG Internet -- which also recorded poor customer service results -- sat at the lower end of the survey's scale, Perth provider WestNet achieved the highest-rated customer service. Only 1.5 percent of WestNet respondents regarded its customer service as awful or average and 86 percent viewed it was 'excellent'. Internode also rated highly.

The survey indicated telephone support was a big problem for BigPond and TPG. Forty-nine percent of BigPond and 62 percent of TPG respondents said they had to spend more than 10 minutes on the phone before being attended to. A significant proportion of those percentages related to waits of 20 minutes or more.

In contrast the overwhelming majority of WestNet customers -- 85 percent -- were connected in the first four minutes, along with 88 percent of Exetel customers.

BigPond and TPG also scored poorly on service contracts. Fifty-nine and 57 percent of users on BigPond and TPG respectively disliked the fact that their ISP could change the conditions of their contract at any time. Smaller but significant numbers were concerned about 'legalese' and vagueness.

Bigpond and TPG's woes didn't, however, stop at customer service. The two, along with iiNet, were spotlighted by users for poor reliability. Only 43 percent of those using BigPond were very happy with the reliability of their Internet connection, placing the ISP last among the list of major providers. TPG and iiNet were the only two other major carriers in BigPond's league when it came to reliability, at 52 and 55 percent respectively. The next-closest provider was OzEmail on 69 percent.

The Telstra spokesperson concluded that the 'well over 1000' BigPond customer service staff were continually reviewed and improved through training. In addition: "Our own surveying of customer satisfaction shows significant improvement in the past year and we will continue our efforts to maintain this trend," he said.

ZDNet Australia&nbsp was unable to reach TPG for comment.

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