Which mobile network has the best customer service?

Last updated: 29 June 2022   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Mobile customers in the UK are more satisfied than customers in other sectors, with a 91% satisfaction rating.

Tesco Mobile customers are the most satisfied across various metrics including low complaints levels and their overall satisfaction level.

giffgaff and Sky Mobile also perform well in some categories, while iD Mobile customers are the least likely to have a reason to complain.

However, Three, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile are below average on several measures, with Three particularly seeming to struggle with their customer service over recent years.

mobile customer service

The best customer service for mobile

Choose's top mobile providers for customer service are:

  1. Tesco Mobile
  2. giffgaff
  3. Sky Mobile

We look at why in more detail below but here are some of their best SIM only deals before we get started:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
Tesco Mobile Unlimited data Unlimited Unlimited 18 months £27.50
giffgaff £25 goodybag Unlimited Always On data 1 month £25
Sky Mobile 50GB data Unlimited 50GB 12 months £25


Overall winner Tesco Mobile
Recent complaints history Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile, EE
Satisfaction with overall service Tesco Mobile
Fewest complaints in 2021 Tesco Mobile
Complaints resolved on first contact EE
Satisfaction with handling of complaints Virgin Mobile
Average call waiting times Three
Most likely to be recommended giffgaff, Tesco Mobile
UK Customer Service Index winner Tesco Mobile

Top pick for mobile customer service in 2022

Our current top pick for mobile customer service is Tesco Mobile thanks to ultra-low complaint levels and other results in Ofcom's annual customer service research.

The most recent complaint figures available for Q4 2021 show EE, Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile leading the pack with low complaint levels:

Mobile provider Complaints per 100,000 customers
Tesco Mobile 1
Sky Mobile 1
EE 1
iD Mobile 2
BT Mobile 2
O2 2
Three 3
Vodafone 3
Virgin Mobile 4

It's worth pointing out that, despite the slight difference in their figures, Ofcom say EE, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile, iD Mobile and BT Mobile figures are all comparable, so all those providers are performing exceptionally well on recent complaints.

Virgin Mobile were the worst performer during Q4 2021 with 4 complaints per 100,000 customers, double the industry average.

Which mobile provider's customers are most satisfied?

One of the biggest sources for mobile customer service data we have comes from Ofcom and their annual Comparing Service Quality (CSQ) report which covers mobile, broadband and landline services.

Thanks to their breakdown, we can see which mobile providers are performing best across various categories. Not all providers are covered in every category as some were not required to provide data for those categories.

The providers included in the report are:

  • BT
  • iD Mobile
  • EE
  • giffgaff
  • O2
  • Sky Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile
  • Three
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Vodafone

These are the four network operators plus six of the biggest mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) who use the networks. At the time of the report:

  • BT used EE's network
  • iD used Three's network
  • giffgaff used O2's network
  • Sky Mobile used O2's network
  • Tesco Mobile used O2's network
  • Virgin Mobile used both Vodafone and EE's networks

Note: While Virgin Media merged with O2 last year, there has not been any convergence of their mobile services yet.

Satisfaction with overall service

Winner: Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile has the most satisfied customers. 96% of their customers were satisfied with service overall, a return to form for the provider who also took the top spot in 2019.

In second place, last year's winner giffgaff posted 95% satisfaction, putting these two providers clearly in the lead.

Average satisfaction was up by 1% compared to the previous year, although still not at the 93% recorded in 2019.

Here are the rankings for 2021:

Rank Provider 2021 overall satisfaction with service Change from 2020
1 Tesco Mobile 96% +5%
2 giffgaff 95% +2%
3 EE 92% N/A
4 O2 92% +1%
5 Vodafone 92% +2%
6 Three 86% N/A
7 Virgin Mobile 83% -3%

Note: BT Mobile, iD Mobile and Sky Mobile are not covered in this category.

Virgin Mobile were the only provider to lose ground year-on-year, with Ofcom singling out them and Three as performing significantly worse than the sector average.

The other trio of MVNOs (EE, O2 and Vodafone) all have satisfaction levels of 92%.

Mobile customers remain more satisfied overall than those in other sectors. Their 91% satisfaction rate is far higher than the 83% for broadband or 77% for landline services.

How many customers have a reason to complain?

Winner: iD Mobile

9% of mobile customers had a reason to complain in 2020, whether they did so or not.

This is a slight drop on the previous year but it is still significantly higher than the 3% reported in 2019, with the jump between 2019 and 2020 likely attributable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Customers on iD Mobile were the least likely to have a reason to complain (4%), while Tesco Mobile ranked well again with 5%.

EE, Sky Mobile, giffgaff and O2 all posted figures below or around the industry average.

Here are the full rankings:

Rank Provider 2021 customers with a reason to complain Change from 2020
1 iD Mobile 4% -1%
2 Tesco Mobile 5% -2%
3 EE 7% -2%
4 Sky Mobile 7% +2%
5 giffgaff 8% +3%
6 O2 9% -2%
7 BT Mobile 10% +3%
8 Virgin Mobile 11% -2%
9 Vodafone 12% -4%
10 Three 16% +3%

At the bottom of the table, Three seem to be struggling to make headway. The number of their customers with a reason to complain jumped from 6% in 2019 to 16% in 2021.

While Vodafone and Virgin Mobile also had scores above the industry average, they have at least brought them down year-on-year, while BT Mobile saw the number of their customers with a reason to complain increase sharply.

Which mobile provider has fewest complaints?

Winner: Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile generated the fewest complaints in 2020 for the fifth consecutive year, although their rivals gained some ground.

The average number of complaints in 2021 was 10 per 100,000 customers, a reduction of 3 on the previous year.

Here are the full rankings covering nine mobile providers (minus giffgaff):

Rank Provider 2021 complaints per 100,000 Change from 2020
1 Tesco Mobile 4 +1
2 EE 5 -1
3 Sky Mobile 6 -1
4 BT 8 -8
5 O2 9 1
6 iD Mobile 12 -2
7 Vodafone 14 -6
8 Three 14 -9
9 Virgin Mobile 16 -9

So, Tesco remains the provider to beat when it comes to low complaints, with EE in second place for the second year in a row. Sky Mobile, BT Mobile and O2 also have complaint levels below the average.

On the other end of the table, Virgin Mobile remains the worst mobile provider for complaints, but they have reduced their figures significantly since 2018 when they registered 41 complaints per 100,000.

Three's complaint figures reduced significantly compared to the previous year, bringing them almost into line with their 2019 figure of 13 per 100,000 customers.

Vodafone also continues to improve year-on-year, registering 32 complaints per 100,000 customers in 2018, down to 26 in 2019 and 14 in the 2021 figures.

Overall, it's good news for customers across the mobile industry - lower average complaints mean a better experience all round.

Complaints resolved on first contact

Winner: EE

EE customers are more likely to have their complaints resolved the first time they contact their mobile provider.

46% of EE complainants say their issue was resolved on first contact, slightly above the industry average of 43%.

Seven mobile companies were ranked on this metric:

Rank Provider 2021 complaints resolved on first contact Change from 2020
1 EE 46% -4%
2 giffgaff 42% -4%
3 O2 42% -5%
4 Vodafone 42% -2%
5 Tesco Mobile 41% -1%
6 Three 41% -1%
7 Virgin Mobile 39% +3%

Apart from poorest performing Virgin Mobile, every provider saw a decrease in the number of complaints they were able to resolve on first contact.

In practice, this means that more than half of customers will need to speak to their provider multiple times to resolve an issue or wait for assistance later.

Satisfaction with complaints handling

Winner: Virgin Mobile

Average overall satisfaction with complaints handling in the mobile industry was at 53% in 2020, but Virgin Mobile were above their competitors with 57%.

While there wasn't too much variation on this metric, it's interesting to see that Virgin Mobile (with high complaints and lower levels of complaints resolved on first contact) have higher overall satisfaction when it comes to complaints handling.

In fact, if we look at 2018's figures for Virgin Mobile and their complaint handling satisfaction figure of 44%, we can certainly see how they have improved.

Here are the rankings:

Rank Provider 2021 complaints per 100,000 Change from 2020
1 Virgin Mobile 57% +1%
2 EE 55% -1%
3 giffgaff 53% -4%
4 O2 53% -9%
5 Three 52% -4%
6 Vodafone 52% -3%
7 Tesco Mobile 49% -6%

Overall, this is a metric where most providers are showing significant drops year on year.

This could suggest that customers are becoming more intolerant of delays following the leeway given to providers during the coronavirus pandemic or it could suggest that companies are being hit with complaints that take longer to fix.

Average call waiting times

Winner: Three

Three customers waited an average of 16 seconds for their calls to be answered, much faster than the 55 seconds recorded by BT Mobile customers.

Three have shown a consistent improvement over recent years, going from being the slowest provider to answer the phone at 2 minutes and 37 seconds in 2019 to their market-leading performance in 2021.

A trio of other providers improved their average call waiting times between 2020 and 2021: Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile.

On average, calls to mobile providers were answered within 2 minutes and 15 seconds, but there were some higher waiting times skewing that average as the table shows:

Rank Provider 2021 average call waiting time Call abandonment rate
1 Three 16 seconds N/A
2 BT Mobile 55 seconds 4%
3 iD Mobile 1 minute 39 seconds 23%
4 Sky Mobile 1 minute 50 seconds 4%
5 Virgin Mobile 1 minute 59 seconds N/A
6 Tesco Mobile 2 minutes 15 seconds N/A
7 EE 2 minutes 25 seconds 9%
8 Vodafone 2 minutes 30 seconds 9%
9 O2 3 minutes 59 seconds N/A

Note: giffgaff has not been included as they do not have a call centre. Some companies were not able to provide comparable call abandonment rates.

O2 were the slowest provider to pick up the phone, registering call waiting times that were almost double the industry average.

On call abandonment rates, iD Mobile were the most concerning of all providers who were able to supply information, with almost a quarter of their customers hanging up before they got to speak to an adviser.

Most likely to be recommended

Winner: Tesco Mobile and giffgaff

Ofcom also ask respondents whether they would recommend their mobile network to their friends, with customers of both Tesco Mobile and giffgaff more likely to do so than customers of other networks.

O2, EE and Vodafone were in the middle of the pack, but Virgin Mobile and Three were less likely to receive recommendations from their customers.

These rankings are the same as 2020.

Institute of Customer Service

Another great source of information for mobile industry customer service satisfaction are the bi-annual reports published by the Institute of Customer Service.

The UK Consumer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) looks at customer service across all industries from telecommunications through to retail and transport, listing the top 50 companies in the UK for customer service satisfaction and providing sector-specific insights.

These are the telecommunications providers analysed by the January 2022 UKCSI:

  • BT
  • EE
  • giffgaff
  • O2
  • Plusnet
  • Sky
  • Sky Mobile
  • TalkTalk
  • Tesco Mobile
  • Three
  • Utility Warehouse
  • Virgin Media
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Vodafone

Note that some providers offering multiple services are split down into their component parts (i.e. Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile) while others aren't. So, it's not completely clear which element of the company is being analysed and some of these like TalkTalk don't offer mobile services.

With those caveats, let's take a look at what the latest UKCSI has to say about telecommunications providers.

Top ranking telecommunications providers

Tesco Mobile are the highest ranked of all Telecommunications & Media companies listed in UKCSI, taking 22nd place in the January 2022 rankings.

Their score was 83.7 out of 100, 2 points shy of Pets at Home in the top spot.

This is a fall compared to the 6th place recorded by Tesco Mobile in the previous report, although they actually improved their score by 0.4 points. The drop in the rankings was due to many organisations increasing their performance by several performance points.

Two other telecommunications companies made the top 50 and they were both mobile specialists:

  • Sky Mobile were ranked 38th with a score of 82.7
  • giffgaff were ranked 40th with a score of 82.3

As the figures suggest, there isn't much between these providers and the gap between the highest and lowest ranked telecommunications companies is 15 points, according to UKCSI data.

Most improved telecommunications providers

No telecommunications providers made the list of most improved companies in January 2022.

However, in July 2021, Virgin Mobile were listed in the rankings of the most improved providers across all sectors, improving their score by 4.6 to 72.7.

That tallied with the improvements noted in the official Ofcom complaints figures, with Virgin Mobile's customers complaining less in 2021 than they did in 2020.

Overall telecommunications performance

It's worth taking a moment to consider how the telecommunications sector performed overall in the January 2022 report.

Average customer satisfaction for Telecommunications & Media was up by 2 points compared to the same time a year earlier, making them one of five sectors to increase their average score by at least 2 points.

None of the providers mentioned in the Telecommunications category had dropped their scores by more than 2 points (compared to companies in eight other sectors), while seven had increased by 2 points or more.

UKCSI say the biggest driver of improvements in the sector came from increased satisfaction with complaint handling, something that again matches the decreasing levels of complaints across the industry.

Fewer customers chose a telecommunications provider based on their customer service than the average across all sectors (17.7% compared to 20%), while customers were slightly more likely than average to base their choice on a provider's privacy and data policy (7.3% compared to 6.8%).

Finally, there was a growing trend across all sectors suggesting customers were willing to pay more if they were going to get excellent service.

In January 2020, 26.1% of telecommunications customers said they would prefer this, while the figure had risen to 32% by January 2022.

The top reasons given for this were trusting the companies they use (33.8%) and feeling happier knowing they have the support and advice available (28.5%).

Why does mobile customer service matter?

Customer service is often one of those elements we don't notice until we're most in need of it when something goes wrong or we need an answer to an important question.

At the same time, customer service records can be the key difference between mobile providers, and that might be the deciding factor if we're looking at similar handsets and similar price plans.

It's worth pointing out the satisfaction levels in the mobile sector are higher than the broadband and landline sectors, meaning the differences we've seen in this guide aren't as large as we'd find elsewhere.

Even so, understanding what level of service you're likely to receive, how long you'll be waiting on the phone before your call is answered and how likely other people are to recommend a mobile provider are key to switching to the right mobile provider for you.

Verdict: Who is the mobile customer service winner?

For 2022, Tesco Mobile is the best mobile provider for customer service in the UK.

They excelled in the following areas:

  • Most satisfied customers overall
  • Lowest complaints in the mobile sector
  • One of the providers most likely to be recommended
  • Top mobile company in UKCSI rankings

Tesco Mobile offer a consistently strong service with low complaint levels, so it's no surprise to see them in the top spot.

Our runner-up for 2022 is previous winner: giffgaff.

We still like them for the following reasons:

  • Runner-up for overall customer satisfaction
  • Likely to be recommended
  • Features in top companies in UKCSI

Other providers perform well in different areas too, with iD Mobile customers have little reason to complain and Three answering the phone rapidly when a customer needs assistance.

We think Sky Mobile deserve third place thanks to their low complaint levels alongside their other good results, including their placement in the UKCSI alongside giffgaff and Tesco Mobile.


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