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8.5 million UK households suffer as internet problems disrupt work or personal life during lockdown, research reveals

8.5 million UK households[1] suffered work, schooling or entertainment disruption, or were cut off from their families, thanks to internet connection problems during the Covid-19 lockdown, a survey commissioned by Quadient has revealed[2]. This disruption comes as the lockdown has made connectivity more important than ever – more than three fifths (61 percent) of respondents said they were using online services more during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is reflected in how UK consumers view essential utilities and services. Respondents ranked broadband as the third most important service in their lives – only beaten by electricity and water, and comfortably ahead of council services, banking or even gas[3]. Time spent online may contribute to this: across both home and mobile connections, respondents spend an average of seven hours a day online.

Ultimately, if their expectations are not met, people are ready and willing to switch to another telco provider – especially as initiatives to make the process simpler such as Ofcom’s ‘Text-to-Switch’ service are removing any mental barriers many customers might have had. More than two fifths (42 percent) of respondents said they have either switched broadband provider in the last year, or are planning to, or wanted to do so but think it’s too difficult. At the same time, 81 percent are confident switching would be easy if they wanted to, or have experienced how easy it is.

Consumers are also clear on what providers should do. First, reliability – respondents rated providers’ ability to fix problems quickly higher than the range of services they have on offer, or how speedy their installation process is[5]. Second, meet providers’ own customer experience promises – a quarter of respondents said the quality of customer service from broadband providers doesn’t live up to what’s advertised. However, consumers are also open to new ways of improving the customer experience. More than two thirds of UK consumers would be open to using self-service tools to resolve issues.

Providers also need to be aware of consumers’ concerns, and act on them. 59 percent of mobile customers said providers are too busy pushing 5G as the next big thing, when they should instead focus attention and resources on customer service. Clear communications will be essential for providers looking to win their customers’ trust.

“While there is lots of hype around new services like 5G, telcos must make sure they don’t try to run before they can walk, and keep their customers connected when it matters the most,” John Hoggard added. “With many people still remaining at home, it’s likely the number of connection problems and customer support requests will remain high. Making sure obligations to existing customers are not overlooked while new services are developed, and giving consumers access to all the tools they need to provide prompt service and clear, timely communications, will be essential in retaining customer confidence and ensuring telcos can meet the expectations placed on them.”

[1] 93 percent of the UK’s 27.8 million households had access to the internet in 2019 – a total of 25.9 million.

33 percent of respondents that had an internet connection reported an internet issue during lockdown – representing 8.5 million of the 25.9 million UK households with access to the internet

[2] Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Opinium Research in June 2020

[3] See APPENDIX, chart 1

[4] According to BEIS research, 2019

[5] See APPENDIX, chart 2