ISP Customer Service in 2009

A few weeks ago Whirlpool’s Australian Broadband Survey 2009 Report was released.  Last year I used the 2008 report to analyse the survey results specifically as they pertained to ISP customer service; so I thought it would be good idea to update my analysis, and see just how much the ISP customer service landscape has changed over the 12 month period.

My objective, as it was last year, was to take results from these three survey questions related to customer service

  1. When calling customer support, how long did you have to wait on the phone (or talk to an operator) before you spoke to the right person?
  2. How quickly have technical support issues typically taken to resolve?
  3. How would you rate their customer service?

and distil them down to a single score that can be used to rank providers.  I arbitrarily set the benchmark score across the whole industry to be 1000, with each individual ISP’s customer service ranked relative to that benchmark.  So an ISP score higher than 1000 is above the industry average.  Lower than 1000 is below average.

The methodology employed was exactly the same as last year, so no need to go into the details.  Without further ado, here are the updated results:

Stan’s Top Five ISPs for Customer Service in 2009 [2008 rank in brackets]

  1. Adam Internet [3]
  2. Westnet [1]
  3. Amnet [2]
  4. Internode [4]
  5. iiNet [6]

Congratulations go to local Adelaide-based outfit, Adam Internet.  Number 1 with a bullet in 2009.  Westnet (purchased by iiNet in 2008) has always prided itself on providing subscribers with a premium customer service experience, so it was very surprising to see them knocked off their coveted number 1 spot.  Also surprising to see aaNet slip out of the Top Five altogether, replaced by iiNet.

The overall results from the three customer service questions (equally weighted) are as follows:

Table 1: Australian ISP customer service scores
<1000:below average1000:average>1000:above average

ISP 1. Time in queue 2. Speed of resolution 3. Rating of service OVERALL CUSTOMER SERVICE SCORE
Telstra Cable 513 556 731 586
Telstra DSL 488 523 724 562
Optus Cable 605 886 812 748
Optus DSL 669 668 809 710
iiNet 1389 1410 1101 1284
Internode 1636 1803 1176 1488
TPG 757 665 812 739
Westnet 2249 2601 1220 1820
Adam 2796 2544 1139 1842
Exetel 1125 954 919 991
Netspace 559 958 973 777
aaNet 903 863 904 889
iPrimus 950 1273 1025 1066
Amnet 2792 2242 1128 1774
Telstra NextG 389 365 645 437
AAPT 879 604 846 755
Other ISPs 844 725 938 826
TOTAL 1000 1000 1000 1000

It’s important to keep in mind that Whirlpool’s Australian Broadband Survey isn’t scientific.  Although it gets tens of thousands of responses, it only reflects the opinions of those who are aware of the Whirlpool site and motivated to express an opinion.  It is a self-select survey and, as such, the respondents’ attitudes may not be statistically representative of the ISP’s customer base.   In other words, take with a grain of salt.

Ranked from highest to lowest the results are as follows:
ISP (2009 score) (2008 score):

  • Adam Internet (1842) (1727)
  • Westnet (1820) (2132)
  • Amnet (1774) (1735)
  • Internode (1488) (1348)
  • iiNet (1284) (1081)
    ——
  • iPrimus (1066) (903)
  • Exetel (991) (992)
    ——
  • aaNet (889) (1204)
  • Netspace (777) (912)
  • AAPT (755) (808)
  • Optus Cable (748) (736)
  • TPG (739) (963)
  • Optus DSL (710) (672)
  • Telstra Cable (586) (711)
  • Telstra DSL (562) (676)
  • Telstra NextG (437) (562)
    ——
  • Other (826) (959)
    ——
  • AVERAGE (1000)

——

Which Australian ISP has the best customer service?

Which Australian Internet Service Provider (ISP) has the “best” customer service?

I’m glad you asked.

By my measure, Westnet utterly dominates the ISP customer service landscape.  All other ISPs simply pale in comparison.  Perhaps there’s something special in the Perth drinking water supply that makes businesses more people-focussed, because my second ranked ISP, Amnet, is also based in that beautiful city.  I’m chuffed to see that two ISPs operating out of my home town of Adelaide finished strongly – Adam Internet and Internode.  Relatively small outfit, aaNet filled out my top 5 with iiNet romping home with a respectable, above average result.  Finally, for reasons that I explain at the end of this post, I believe it’s worth giving an honourable mention to Exetel.

In summary, Stan’s Top Five Customer Service ISPs are:

  1. Westnet (by a Western Australian mile)
  2. Amnet
  3. Adam Internet
  4. Internode
  5. aaNet

But this isn’t just my opinion.  It’s based on hard science.  And when I say hard science I obviously mean my back-of-the-envelope statistical doodling.  My objective was to take results from the Australian Broadband Survey 2008 Report related to customer service, and distil them down to a single score that can be used to rank providers.  I arbitrarily set the benchmark score across the whole industry to be 1000, with each individual ISP’s customer service ranked relative to that benchmark.  So an ISP score higher than 1000 is above the industry average.  Lower than 1000 is below average.

I started by looking at the question:

When calling customer support, how long did you have to wait on the phone (or talk to an operator) before you spoke to the right person?

I used the resulting percentages (and some statistical shenanigans) to estimate the average time respondents to the survey spent waiting in the customer support phone queue:

ISP <1 min 1-4 mins 5-9 mins 10-20 mins >20 mins est. average time in queue
Telstra Cable 2.4% 19.4% 27.4% 26.2% 24.6% 19.9 mins
Telstra DSL 1.3% 18.4% 25.9% 26.6% 27.7% 21.5 mins
Optus Cable 1.7% 16.6% 27.7% 31.8% 22.2% 19.3 mins
Optus DSL 2.7% 19.3% 23.5% 28.3% 26.2% 20.8 mins
iiNet 10.0% 37.9% 25.0% 14.2% 12.9% 12.0 mins
Internode 8.4% 39.2% 27.6% 15.9% 8.9% 10.2 mins
TPG 2.7% 31.6% 33.2% 22.9% 9.6% 11.8 mins
Westnet 33.5% 48.7% 12.1% 3.6% 2.1% 3.9 mins
Exetel 12.1% 39.2% 24.1% 13.6% 11.0% 10.8 mins
Adam 20.3% 50.0% 19.2% 7.1% 3.4% 5.6 mins
aaNet 7.2% 45.9% 31.1% 9.6% 6.2% 8.2 mins
Netspace 2.2% 26.0% 27.9% 24.7% 19.2% 16.9 mins
Amnet 19.4% 50.2% 18.9% 9.7% 1.8% 5.1 mins
iPrimus 3.8% 20.3% 32.3% 26.6% 17.1% 16.2 mins
Telstra NextG 3.6% 12.3% 22.5% 28.3% 33.3% 24.5 mins
AAPT 2.6% 26.6% 23.4% 21.4% 26.0% 19.8 mins
Other ISPs 9.8% 33.1% 25.7% 18.0% 13.4% 12.7 mins
TOTAL 9.7% 33.3% 25.2% 18.1% 13.7% 12.9 mins

So, for example, Westnet customers spent just 3.9 minutes, on average, waiting in the phone queue before speaking to a Customer Support Officer.  Not too shabby.  The average across all ISPs I estimated to be 12.9 minutes.  Of course it’s possible that these estimates might be a bit off.  But it doesn’t matter too much, because the idea is to rank each ISP relative to all ISPs.  So (to 3 decimal places) Westnet gets a relative score of (12.895/3.927)*1000=3284 for wait time.

And so on.  I have omitted the calcuations here to keep things concise, but I applied the same basic technique to the two remaining questions in the survey related to customer service:

How quickly have technical support issues typically taken to resolve?

How would you rate their customer service?

Again, each ISP was scaled comparatively to the overall index of 1000.

Finally, I generated a total score by taking the harmonic mean of the three individual categories.  My overall results from the three customer service questions (equally weighted) are as follows:

ISP Time in queue Time to resolution Rating of service TOTAL SCORE
Telstra Cable 649 696 808 711
Telstra DSL 600 657 802 676
Optus Cable 667 751 804 736
Optus DSL 620 653 759 672
iiNet 1077 1074 1093 1081
Internode 1260 1664 1203 1348
TPG 1089 991 843 963
Westnet 3284 3183 1268 2132
Exetel 1192 909 922 992
Adam 2290 2433 1125 1727
aaNet 1571 1219 966 1204
Netspace 764 1045 978 912
Amnet 2519 2320 1110 1735
iPrimus 797 974 961 903
Telstra NextG 527 479 740 562
AAPT 650 998 853 808
Other ISPs 1012 896 976 959
TOTAL 1000 1000 1000 1000

Westnet completely blitzed the field across all three categories.  Hence it ranks overall as the number 1 ISP for customer service in Australia, with a total score of 2132.  So Westnet is more than twice as “good” than the industry average (=1000).  In fact, one surprising result was just how well some of the smaller outfits in general did against the 900 pound gorillas, Telstra and Optus.  At the other end of the customer support spectrum, Telstra’s NextG service hobbled in with a miserly 562.  In customer support, size does not matter.

But the really surprising result for me was Exetel.  I have a bit of a soft spot for Exetel.  Their whole raison d’etre is to provide the lowest cost broadband services in Australia.  Remarkably, they apparently do so without compromising customer service all that much.  Exetel’s overall score was only a smidgeon below the industry benchmark index, and they comprehensively trounced many of their bigger competitors.

Ranked from highest to lowest the results are as follows (with scores):

  • Westnet (2132)
  • Amnet (1735)
  • Adam (1727)
  • Internode (1348)
  • aaNet (1204)
  • iiNet (1081)
    ——
  • Exetel (992)
  • TPG (963)
  • Netspace (912)
  • iPrimus (903)
  • AAPT (808)
  • Optus Cable (736)
  • Telstra Cable (711)
  • Telstra DSL (676)
  • Optus DSL (672)
  • Telstra NextG (562)
    ——
  • Other (959)
    ——
  • AVERAGE (1000)

basil-fawlty-on-phone“Your call is important to us”

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