Broadband providers with the best customer service

Last updated: 26 October 2023   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Good customer service can make the difference between choosing a broadband provider or opting for a rival instead.

Our top pick for broadband customer service is Sky, although honourable mentions go to Plusnet and Community Fibre.

Sky consistently have the lowest complaint levels of all major providers, and also score highly for customer satisfaction, especially when customers do need to make a complaint.

Plusnet currently have the most customers satisfied with their service overall, as well as with the speed of their broadband connection.

customer service

Verdict: Which broadband is best for customer service?

Our top broadband providers for customer service are Sky, Plusnet, and Community Fibre. We explore why we've chosen these three in more detail throughout this guide.

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Sky, Plusnet, and BT, are all available to 97% of homes nationwide, and all offer customers connections through either part-fibre or full-fibre lines.


Best broadband provider for customer service

Of our top three providers, we've chosen Sky as the best broadband provider for customer service, and awarded them our Best Customer Service award in the Choose Broadband Awards 2023 and 2022.

The most recent complaint figures from industry regulator Ofcom shows Sky ahead on fixed line broadband complaints, with the lowest number of complaints in the latest Q2 2023 results, as well as over the past four quarters, of all major providers. They also had the lowest number of complaints for their landline, pay TV, and Sky Mobile services.

Here's how Sky ranked in the latest complaint figures from Ofcom:

Broadband complaints per 100,000 customers, Q2 2023 Broadband complaints per 100,000 customers, Q2 2022 - Q2 2023
Sky 5 19
EE 7 27
Plusnet 11 46
NOW Broadband 13 39
BT 13 45
Shell Energy Broadband 13 83
Virgin Media 15 62
TalkTalk 18 74
Vodafone 24 72
Industry average 12 46

Only three major providers have complaint levels in line with, or below, the industry average of 46 complaints per 100,000 customers over the past year.

Shell Energy Broadband complaints are notably high over the past four months, although they have improved considerably in the first part of 2023.

Complaints for the provider peaked in Q2 2022, when Shell Energy received 31 complaints per 100,000 customers. At the time we spoke to Shell Energy Broadband who said they were, "investing heavily in our customer service and complaint processes, as we strive to deliver the best possible outcome for every customer".

Ofcom said the high level of complaints were driven mainly by customer experience of faults, service and provisioning, however they've come down considerably in recent quarters.

Virgin Media, TalkTalk, and Vodafone, have also all seen an increase in complaint levels recently, with Vodafone receiving the most complaints in the most recent quarter.

As we cover in more detail throughout this guide customer service can be measured through multiple metrics in addition to looking at complaint figures, however.

The table below covers the main metrics for customer service, so you can see how some providers perform better in certain categories. For example, while Sky has some of the lowest complaint records, Plusnet currently has a higher level of satisfaction among their customers.

Overall winner Sky
Recent complaints history Sky
Satisfaction with overall service Plusnet
Fewest complaints in 2022/23 Sky
Fewest customers with a reason to complain NOW Broadband
Satisfaction with handling of complaints Sky and BT
Complaints resolved on first contact BT
Average call waiting times NOW Broadband
Fewest abandoned calls NOW Broadband
Best small provider for customer service Community Fibre

Broadband customer satisfaction

Overall satisfaction levels are highest among customers of Plusnet broadband than any other provider, according to Ofcom's latest Comparing Customer Service report published in May 2023.

Ofcom quizzed a number of broadband customers across seven major providers to determine satisfaction levels for the service overall; the speed of the service; how any complaints were handled; and also how many customers had a reason to complain (whether they went ahead with their complaint or not).

Here's how each of the seven main providers ranked:

Satisfaction with overall service Satisfaction with speed of service Satisfaction with complaints handling Customers with a reason to complain
Plusnet 89% 83% 53% 20%
EE 85% 81% 55% 13%
BT 83% 80% 55% 19%
Vodafone 83% 82% 49% 22%
Sky 82% 80% 55% 18%
Virgin Media 81% 82% 46% 25%
TalkTalk 78% 76% 46% 24%
Industry average 82% 80% 51% 20%

There are few noteworthy points here:

  • Average satisfaction overall is down by 1% compared to the previous year
  • Slightly more customers (1%) on average are satisfied with the way their complaint was handled compared to the previous year
  • The average number of customers to complain has decreased by 5 per complaints per 100,000 customers since last year

While it's good to see customer complaint levels failing, the industry average is still notably above the pre-pandemic figure of 12%. Though this could well be down to an increase reliance on home broadband for remote working.

When we look at the scores for individual providers, there are some key statistics worth highlighting:

  • Plusnet customers are the most satisfied with their service overall
  • Plusnet customers are also highly satisfied with the speed of the service, which also relates to how reliable the broadband connection is
  • Sky has the fewest complaints overall, and also has high levels of satisfaction for complaints handling
  • Sky, NOW and EE customers are least likely to have a reason to complain than customers of any other provider

At the other end of the scale, it's worth being aware some providers, particularly more budget providers, are achieving poorer scores for customer satisfaction:

  • TalkTalk customers are the least satisfied with the speed of their broadband service
  • Virgin Media customers are also less satisfied with their overall service than the industry average, and are also more likely to have a reason to complain
  • Shell Energy Broadband were plagued with high numbers of complaints after their takeover of the Post Office broadband in early 2021, however this has noticeably improved since the start of 2023, suggesting they are now on top of the problem.

It's perhaps unsurprising the providers scoring below average for customer satisfaction also tend to have higher complaint levels than the industry average as well.

This is true of providers improving their scores as well, with Vodafone showing greater levels of customer satisfaction as their complaints levels began to decrease in 2022.

Broadband provider most likely to be recommended

In Ofcom's Comparing Customer Service report they also ask their panel of customers whether they would be likely to recommend their broadband provider to a friend.

In the latest figures, covering the 2022 period, Ofcom found Sky, Plusnet and EE customers were likely to recommend their provider. Interestingly, BT has moved from being recommended in 2021 to less likely to be recommended in 2022.

2022
More likely to recommend EE, Plusnet, Sky
Average Virgin Media, Vodafone
Less likely to recommend BT, TalkTalk

However, the report also found customers of TalkTalk were less likely to recommend their provider, and customers of Virgin Media and Vodafone were around average.

Despite higher than average complaints, Vodafone's performance here could be due to their budget pricing, but they also scored well for satisfaction with the speed of service, so these could be the reasons a customer is more willing to recommend them.

Overall satisfaction levels

Satisfaction with the overall service offered by broadband providers is down slightly on the previous year, although it's still 2% higher than the levels seen in 2020.

2022 2021 2020 2019
Average overall satisfaction with broadband 82% 83% 80% 85%

2021 marked more of a return to business as usual for providers following the onset of Covid-19 in 2020 and a heightened reliance on home broadband.

Ofcom also released guidance in July 2020 on how providers should more fairly treat vulnerable customers or those with changing circumstances.

While increased use tied into increasing customer frustrations in some cases, research from the Consumer Action Monitor (CAM) found telecoms customers were more likely to tolerate service problems during Covid-19, with 24% saying they chose not to complain because they were more willing to be lenient during the challenging period.

Customer satisfaction trends in 2021 and 2022 show improvements across the sector and a suggestion that service levels could be returning to those seen before lockdowns and remote working came into practice.

Here are the figures for broadband customer satisfaction against other sectors:

2021 2020
Mobile 91% 90%
Bank account 90% 88%
Broadband 83% 80%
Gas 81% 86%
Landline 77% 77%
Electricity 73% 88%

Satisfaction with broadband services has improved, yet their leapfrogging over the energy sector is more connected to the difficulties experienced by customers with electricity and gas suppliers during 2021.

Even so, broadband satisfaction is moving in the right direction while satisfaction with landline providers remains stagnant.


Broadband provider complaints

Sky recorded the fewest broadband complaints so far in 2023, as well as in 2022 and 2021. Conversely, Shell Energy Broadband, Vodafone, and TalkTalk have had the highest level of complaints.

However, most providers have reduced their complaint levels over the same period in the previous year.

Complaints 2022 Complaints 2021 Change
Sky 16 21 -5
EE 22 20 +2
NOW Broadband 34 N/A N/A
BT 35 42 -7
Plusnet 46 56 -10
Vodafone 64 64 0
Virgin Media 66 78 -12
TalkTalk 67 75 -8
Shell Energy 108 45 +63
Industry average 44 49 -5

NOW Broadband complaint publishing only began in the first quarter of 2022, and Shell Energy Broadband's 2021 figures look particularly low because they started in Q2 of 2021 after they acquired the Post Office's customer base, and so are under-reported by a month in 2021 in comparison to the other providers.

While Sky remains the provider to beat when it comes to the lowest level of complaints, it's also worth considering how other providers are improving.

Plusnet have struggled in previous reports, partly due to a billing system update in 2018 that had a long-lasting effect on their customer service. Yet they've shown steady improvements since then, reducing their complaint figures by 13 from 2020 to 2021, and a further decrease of 10 from 2021 to 2022, where they now sit in line with the industry average.

Virgin Media have been steadily improving their customer service after complaints saw an increase in 2021.

Vodafone also saw a recovery in their complaint levels, decreasing by 44 between 2020 and 2021, and while they remained steady over the previous year, they have increased again recently.

There are a few key takeaways from the complaint figures of 2022:

  • Sky remains ahead of the competition for lowest complaint levels
  • Most providers are continuing to improve year-on-year since complaints peaked during Covid-19
  • Shell Energy Broadband complaints now seem to have settled, showing noticeable improvement over the past two quarters

Overall, complaint levels are a good way of keeping an eye on how various broadband providers are performing throughout the year, with quarterly complaint figures revealing any problems they may be dealing with.


Broadband complaint handling

Complaint levels are only one side of the coin, as we can also look at customer satisfaction as to how well their complaint was handled by their provider.

In the most recent Comparing Customer Service report, Ofcom found the following satisfaction levels among the major providers:

Satisfaction with complaint handling
Sky 55%
BT 55%
EE 55%
Plusnet 53%
Vodafone 49%
Virgin Media 46%
TalkTalk 46%
Industry average 51%

Sky, BT and EE all had the highest percentage of customers who were satisfied with the way their complaint was handled by the provider. Plusnet also performed well with complaint handling.

We can also look at the number of complaints that were completely resolved on first contact to see how quickly each provider is responding to and dealing with complaints:

Complaints resolved on first contact
BT 44%
Sky 41%
EE 39%
Vodafone 38%
Plusnet 37%
TalkTalk 34%
Virgin Media 33%
Industry average 39%

BT also performed well for complaint resolution, with Sky and EE also resolving complaints quickly.

TalkTalk and Virgin Media were least likely to resolve complaints on the first contact, although the industry average for complaint resolution has remain steady at around 37-39% since 2019.

Read more on how to complain about your broadband provider, or find out more about broadband connection problems.


Contacting customer services

The primary way customers are contacting their broadband customer service help teams is by telephone, with 90% of customers using the phone, up 4% on the previous year.

6% of customers contact customer services by Webchat, 2% by email, and just 0.3% by sending a letter in the post.

Ofcom also publish customer service data on how quickly each provider answers a call, which can give us an indication as to how easy it is for customers to get the help they need.

Average call waiting time
NOW Broadband 51 seconds
EE 1 minute, 6 seconds
TalkTalk 1 minute, 22 seconds
Plusnet 2 minutes, 8 seconds
Sky 2 minutes, 14 seconds
BT 2 minutes, 45 seconds
Virgin Media 3 minutes, 7 seconds
Vodafone 3 minutes, 19 seconds
KCOM 4 minutes, 13 seconds
Shell Energy Broadband 8 minutes, 14 seconds
Industry average 2 minutes, 37 seconds

Most broadband providers are answering customer service calls within a couple of minutes, with the average mainly being pushed up by Shell Energy Broadband's poor call waiting times.

Abandoned call data, that is when a customer hangs up before speaking to a customer service agent, isn't available for all providers. However, what we do know is:

  • Shell Energy Broadband have the highest number of abandoned calls at 28%, which is perhaps unsurprising considering their high call waiting time
  • NOW Broadband have the lowest number of abandoned calls at just 2%, with Sky also performing well at 3%
  • The average call abandonment rate across all broadband providers was 7% in 2022, up by 2 percentage points over 2021

Overall, both call waiting times and call abandonment rates have returned to their pre-pandemic levels, with the average call wait time in 2019 being 2 minutes, 10 seconds, and 5.4% of calls were abandoned.


Best small broadband provider for customer service

Ofcom only report on broadband providers who have a market share of at least 1.5%, which means smaller providers like Hyperoptic, Fibrus, Community Fibre, and Zen Internet aren't included in their complaints or customer services data.

While Ofcom say their reports cover at least 91% of customers in the broadband industry, smaller independent full fibre broadband providers are becoming more common and so are worthy of consideration.

There are a few things we can look at however, including the provider's own support forums, independent review sites like Trustpilot, and any industry awards the provider may have won.

Checking the provider's own forums can show several things:

  • Common issues coming up again and again
  • How rapidly the moderators and tech support are responding
  • How helpful the responses are or whether they're using templates that don't address the problems

Bear in mind that most people will only venture on to forums when they're struggling with an issue, so many comments will be negative - this shouldn't be taken as an overall picture of how they perform as a broadband provider.

Equally customer reviews are generally left when customers are either delighted by the service they've received or want to publicly register their irritation.

Remember these points when reading customer reviews:

  • The average customer experience isn't always reflected in reviews
  • Variations in sample size can skew the results
  • Some providers actively seek out reviews, both positive and negative
  • Fake reviews are always going to be a problem despite efforts to cull them

With those caveats in mind, let's take a closer look at the Trustpilot rankings for small and large broadband providers.

Trustpilot reviews

The best broadband provider according to customer reviews added to Trustpilot is London based Community Fibre, with a 4.8 Trustscore from over 33,990 reviews.

95% of reviewers rated Community Fibre 5 out of 5, or Excellent, with just 3% rating them Bad. Most of the reviewers are happy with the performance of the engineers during installation as well as fault repair.

Community Fibre also respond to over 98% of their negative reviews and have an average response time of less than 24 hours.

Here are the Trustscores of some of the smaller broadband providers in the UK:

Trustscore (out of 5) Reviewers
Community Fibre 4.8 33,990
YouFibre 4.8 6,898
Fibrus 4.8 4,820
iTalk Telecom 4.6 16,450
Hyperoptic 4.5 21,963
Gigaclear 4.4 13,813
Zen Internet 4.2 8,034
Direct Save Telecom 3.8 1,835

It's worth noting however, that the Trustscore ratings of some of the bigger broadband companies are poor. This likely reflects the phenomenon highlighted above - unhappy customers find a way to vent their frustrations via review sites.

Trustscore (out of 5) Reviewers
Vodafone 4.2 41,014
TalkTalk 2.9 77,069
Plusnet 2.4 10,514
EE 1.9 14,607
Virgin Media 1.8 85,073
Sky 1.4 11,717
BT 1.5 15,119

Many of the above broadband providers also offer mobile and/or TV services, and we can't see specifically how poor their scores are for broadband alone.

So, while reviews are a good way of getting a handle on how smaller broadband providers are performing, they're less reliable for larger providers.

Customer service awards

Awards given out by various associations and organisations are another way to spot high-performing customer service providers. These awards can be dominated by smaller broadband companies.

For example, the 2022 Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) Awards named Hyperoptic and Community Fibre as Best Consumer ISP. The award has also been won by these two providers in both 2021 and 2020.

Judging criteria for the ISPA Best Consumer ISP award included the training of customer service agents, handling of complaints, speed of answering queries and resolving issues, and 'promoting a culture of customer satisfaction'.

In 2018, Hyperoptic also won an INCA (the Independent Networks Cooperative Association) award for Outstanding Contribution - 'an organisation who has done the most to advance independent networks in the last year'.

Zen Internet won the Best Broadband ISP in PC Pro's Excellence Awards 2021, an honour they've secured for 18 consecutive years.

Awards are normally judged by experts in the field, so they're a good alternative to reviews and forums to find out how smaller providers are doing.


Broadband customer service: What to look for

While the reports, surveys and reviews above provide a good indication as to how each broadband provider performs for customer service, there are some other points worth considering before deciding on a new broadband provider.

Key indicators

The best and worst broadband providers have been determined based on the independent data that's available to us.

However, over the years we've noticed there are some key indicators, aside from reputation, which suggest that customer service from a broadband provider will be good or exceptional:

  • Small ISPs over large brands: there are exceptions either way, but this is a good rule of thumb. It does come with corresponding risk, as small companies might be more likely to go under than big ones - but we rarely see that happening in telecoms these days.
  • Free support numbers are a good sign: see below for more on this.
  • UK based customer service centres often perform better than overseas ones.
  • Service starts at sales: broadband mis-selling can still happen and tends to lead to complaints, so if sales are suspicious the chance of poor service increases.

Note too that taking out an unsuitable broadband contract - for example, one that's restrictive on home moves when moving house is on the agenda - is one of the major causes of broadband customer service complaints.

Technical support teams

Another way to tell which broadband providers take customer service and technical support seriously is to have a look at the methods they use to communicate with their customers.

For example, most broadband providers have readily available information on their websites about different ways that customers can contact them, whether to make a complaint or for another reason.

As we mentioned in the research section, many providers also have helpful online forums where customers and experts can chat about broadband issues, share guides and check local services.

While it's now illegal for businesses to use revenue-generating numbers (like 0845 and 0870) for dedicated complaints lines, they can still use them for technical services.

Look for 0800 and 0300 numbers, which will count as free or inclusive under most call plans. Our guide to broadband customer support centres has more information on what different providers offer.

Final caveat

At Choose, we use the sources listed above, as well as independent surveys, and the feedback we receive from site users, when we evaluate broadband provider performance.

However, just like everyone else looking for a new broadband provider we are, to some extent, shooting in the dark. Some of it just comes down to luck.

There are many happy Virgin Media customers to be found; plenty of unhappy Sky users; and we're sure, with a bit of digging, there's someone out there with unkind things to say about award winning companies Zen Internet and Community Fibre.

Moreover, generally well-regarded providers like the ones topping Trustpilot's list don't even get counted by Ofcom's reports, or by most comparison services.

There are no guarantees and, what's more, provider reputations often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Calling with the expectation of poor service can lead people to subsequently view their encounter more negatively than they would have otherwise done.

We can use past performance as a guide but it's up to us to choose the right broadband provider based on a whole range of different factors, including price, speed, and services included like bundled TV plans or whole home WiFi guarantees.


Summary: Best broadband for customer service goes to...

Our top pick for broadband customer service is Sky thanks to their excellent complaints record and complaint handling.

Sky resolve more complaints on first contact than the majority of other broadband providers, suggesting a positive experience even when customers have reached the stage of needed to complain.

Sky also has a lower number of customers with a reason to complain in the first place, and customers are satisfied with both their overall service and the speed of their broadband connection.

However, by breaking down the customer service metrics into different categories, we can pick from a number of high performing providers:

Category Winner
Recent complaints history Sky
Satisfaction with overall service Plusnet
Fewest complaints in 2022 Sky
Fewest customers with a reason to complain NOW Broadband
Satisfaction with handling of complaints Sky and BT
Complaints resolved on first contact BT
Average call waiting times NOW Broadband
Fewest abandoned calls NOW Broadband
Best small provider Community Fibre

Overall, Sky triumph in some pivotal categories and so we think they're the best bet for good customer service.

For example, while Plusnet customers are slightly more satisfied with their service overall than Sky customers, Plusnet also have a higher than average level of complaints to the regulator.

Community Fibre also deserves an honourable mentions however, having an Excellent Trustpilot rating from over 33,990 reviewers.

Worst broadband provider for customer service

Sometimes knowing who to pick means knowing who to avoid, and here we can look at which broadband providers are performing the worst for customer service.

Shell Energy Broadband, TalkTalk, Vodafone, and to some extent Virgin Media, all show problems in their customer service performance.

Shell Energy Broadband has been racking up complaints since their takeover of the Post Office Broadband in early 2021, and we only saw complaints start to come down at the end of 2022, so it's too soon to say if they've fully recovered yet.

Vodafone's complaints have peaked in the latest Q2 2023 report, after being fairly steady throughout 2021 and 2022. Despite this, customer satisfaction with Vodafone remains high.

TalkTalk customers seemed particularly unhappy with the speed of their service, and while the provider answers the phone quickly they have a high level of dissatisfaction for complaints handling.

While Virgin Media has shown improvements in their level of complaints, they also had lower numbers of satisfaction among customers than other broadband providers.

Overall, the notable differences in customer service and complaint handling could prompt new customers to choose one provider over another, meaning some providers need to make improvements to keep their customers happy.

Ready to switch?

For those who do want to leave their provider and take their chances with a new provider, take a look at this guide on how to switch broadband providers, and use our broadband comparison service to find the best deals.

Comments

Pat
14 March 2021

I'd like to know which broadband providers have UK call centres?

Choose team replying to Pat
20 April 2021

Hi Pat, In this guide, we cover which providers have UK or offshore call centres. Hope this helps!

Jimmy
23 February 2021

We've been with the Post Office for a few years now, not really had any issues. But now we're being moved to Shell and aren't sure if we should stay or look elsewhere. They aren't mentioned here at all ... so what are they like?

Choose team replying to Jimmy
1 March 2021

Hi Jimmy, Shell Energy Broadband isn't listed in this guide as they're currently too small of a provider to be reported on by Ofcom. They are a fairly new broadband provider, however we do know they have a TrustPilot score of 3.8 out of 5. We also have more information on how they perform in our review here: https://www.choose.co.uk/guide/shell-energy-broadband/ Hope this helps.

codercat
22 January 2018

The worst provider is Virgin Media for sure. And the reason they are getting low numbers on the complaints per 100,000 is that you simply can't reach them when you have something to complain about. They are happy to call you 3 times a day with nonsense marketing offers, but when it comes to solving your problem they are all on vacation. The chat support is always unavailable, when you call them you usually have nobody to answer for about half an hour, and the quality of the customer service is horrible as well - One thing is they don't speak English, the other thing is when you finally manage to get them to understand your problem they don't have a working solution. I bet they know nothing about I.T. at all... I am very disappointed with them. Leaving them very soon.

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