There is no doubt that Vodafone UK has some serious problems with the billing of mobile services. The worst-kept secret in the UK telecoms industry has been corroborated over four consecutive quarters by the complaints data collated by Ofcom, the UK comms regulator. Now further confirmation comes in the shape of Ofcom’s 2015 customer service satisfaction survey. Vodafone’s postpaid mobile customers would find the report to be grim reading – once they have cut through Ofcom’s waffle and found the data that really matters. To make life easy for you, here are the key statistics relating to Vodafone.
Vodafone receives far more customer contacts relating to billing than any of their rivals
Ofcom has three categories for customer contacts: billing issues; faults and repairs; and other queries. Billing issues are common but not dominant; it is rare for any telco to have more than a third of their contacts relate to billing. However, 43 percent of contacts received by Vodafone UK relate to billing (see diagram excerpt above). This is 13 points higher than the mobile sector average of 30 percent. Amongst UK mobile providers, EE has the second-highest proportion of contacts relating to billing, at just 31 percent.
And if you wondered, the total number of Vodafone contacts and complaints was above average for the UK mobile sector, so the significance of Vodafone’s billing contacts is not being exaggerated by receiving fewer contacts in the other two categories.
Vodafone was least likely to resolve billing complaints during the first contact
Customers were asked whether their queries were completely resolved within one contact. For billing issues, Vodafone had the worst record amongst all UK mobile providers; they only resolved 36 percent of billing issues during the initial contact. This was 6 points lower than the sector average of 42 percent, and 6 points lower than the next worst performer, EE. Vodafone’s 2015 performance was down 15 points compared to the 51 percent resolution rate they achieved in 2014.
Customers with complaints are least likely to be satisfied with Vodafone
It is worth separating satisfaction levels of customers who have made a complaint from the satisfaction experienced by other customers; the former is driven by a specific experience whilst the latter is more influenced by intangibles like brand values. Of mobile customers who made a complaint, Vodafone’s customers were least likely to be satisfied with their provider. Vodafone’s satisfaction level was 49 percent, compared to the mobile sector average of 59 percent. Vodafone was the only mobile provider with satisfaction levels below 50 percent, and the only one to have seen satisfaction levels fall for two years running.
Though these satisfaction numbers relate to all categories of complaint, we can reasonably infer that billing was a significant cause of dissatisfaction amongst Vodafone customers. This is because Vodafone received so many queries about billing, and resolved so few of them, compared to its competitors.
Vodafone customers had the least positive view of the customer service they had experienced
Of customers who contacted any UK mobile service provider, 52 percent said the experience had made them more likely to use the provider in future. 14 percent said the experience had made them less likely to stick with the provider. Generally speaking, we can conclude that a typical customer’s impression of their mobile provider is usually enhanced by how their query was handled.
However, Vodafone’s customers were least likely to be impressed by the service they received. Only 44 percent of Vodafone customers were more likely to use Vodafone in future, 4 points lower than EE, the second-worst performer. 21 percent of Vodafone customers were less likely to use Vodafone in future, 4 points higher than the corresponding stat for EE. This latter statistic has improved since 2014 for every UK mobile provider except Vodafone. The 21 percent who were less likely to use Vodafone represents a 3 percent rise compared to 2014 and a 5 percent rise on the 2013 statistic.
I am baffled that Ofcom spends public money on surveys like this, but does not release the full data tables. If this were an opinion poll of voting intentions, we could all drill into the detail of the raw data. Because Ofcom refuses to share the base numbers, we are denied the opportunity to perform simple but valuable analysis, such as identifying the relationship between customers who had unresolved billing issues, and those who say they are less likely to use a provider in future.
However, the scale of the numbers presented here is highly suggestive. All of this data indicates that Vodafone’s billing is a mess. Vodafone receives more complaints about billing, and it is struggling to resolve them. When Vodafone customers complain, they are generally left dissatisfied, and they are most likely to switch supplier.
If we cannot map the relationship between the billing-related causes and the effects on customer satisfaction, it is only because the UK regulator only believes in a superficial version of transparency. I believe the full data would teach us all a valuable lesson about the extent to which billing issues can poison the customer’s perception of their telco.
You can obtain the Ofcom Quality of Customer Service Report 2015 from here.