Internet service firms hard to contact and difficult to swap

Vodafone and Spark need to smarten up act.

Vodafone and Spark [NZX: SPK] rub their internet customers up the wrong way by being difficult to contact, but people stick with them all the same as it's too hard to compare services, a survey by Consumer NZ shows.

A survey of the consumer lobby's 8600 members ranked 12 internet providers, with Spark and Vodafone customers the least happy.

Vodafone came off badly in the survey, with just 30% of 3000 customers satisfied, compared to an average of 44% across all providers.

More than a quarter of Vodafone customers did not feel they were getting good value for money, and 51% felt the company was not easy to contact, with long wait times when calling customer service.

Spark also fared poorly, with just 35% of 3400 customers satisfied with the country's biggest telecommunications company. Some 45% of customers found Spark hard to contact, and about a third felt they were not getting good value for money.

Despite dissatisfaction, most of those surveyed had been with the same provider for at least two years. About 60% had stayed with the same company for five years or more, and only 12% said they were likely to change in the next 12 months.

This was not down to loyalty so much as companies making it difficult for consumers to compare and switch between providers, Consumer NZ said. About 53 % of people were finding it hard to compare services while 37% said it was difficult to switch.

The happiest customers were with smaller companies, although there were fewer of their customers surveyed. Of Manawatu-based Inspire Net's 113 customers surveyed, 98% were satisfied with the service; Now NZ, which is 26% owned by Spark, had an 88 % satisfaction rate over its 72 customers surveyed.

Nearly 40% of respondents said they were likely to move to an ultra-fast broadband plan, and 17% had already made the switch.

The major telecommunications providers performed better on mobile, although they still lagged behind average. An average of 49% of consumers felt "very satisfied" with the services they were getting across all providers; for Spark, this dropped to 41%, and 42% for Vodafone.

Spark offshoot Skinny Mobile fared better, with 84% of customers very satisfied, and 86% feeling they were getting value for money. Two Degrees Mobile showed 69% of customers very satisfied, and 63% happy with value for money.

Customers on pre-pay plans were more likely to be happy with their value for money, Consumer NZ said. All Skinny’s, and 57% of 2degrees customers, were on pre-pay plans, with most spending $30 or less per month.

When it comes to online video streaming, Netflix was the clear winner in subscriber satisfaction.

Some 54% of Netflix subscribers were happy with the service, compared with a quarter of those using Lightbox, 18% of Sky Network Television's Neon subscribers and 17% of Quickflix users.

The survey was done in November, prior to Netflix's announcement it was cracking down on subscribers using international versions of the service to access geoblocked content last month.


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