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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

Mobile phone customer experience - it sucks!

Nick and I live in Manchester, England. Manchester is the U.K.'s third largest city. You would imagine that in a developed industrial country such as ours and in a large city such as this we would have a good mobile phone system. This is not the case. Where I live in Marple, which is just to the south of Manchester, my signal flutters like a fibrillator in cardiac arrest. In April of last year, Which surveyed 3,683 members of the public and found that the UK’s biggest providers – Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three – ranged from average to disappointing according to their customers. The 2018 Ofcom customer satisfaction tracker survey gave the following Net Promoter Scores for the main mobile phone providers in the UK:


· Three – 26

· EE – 20

· 02 – 19

· Vodafone – 11


In our experience, a Net Promoter Score of a company offering good customer experience should be over 30. None achieved this. The survey also shows that the main reason for dissatisfaction is poor reception/coverage (47% mentioned this reason). The operators know what they need to do, they just won't do it.


Unfortunately this is a problem that has gone on too long in the UK. Operators have had plenty of warning. In 2014 , David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, told the operators to sort out the problem after he was frustrated by a virtually non-existent signal in his rural constituency. He thumped the table and insisted that they did something to improve the national roaming network.


Did they do so? Did they heck. They raised every technical difficulty they could think of but in reality they could not countenance sharing each other's network and lose the boast "ours is bigger than yours" (despite each being rubbish). Can you also believe that the telecoms industry even argued that national roaming would lead to "a poor customer experience". What?! They should visit Switzerland for a few days and see how operators there have knitted roaming networks together in the cities, on the trains and in the mountains.


Mobile phones are no longer considered a luxury. Survey after survey carried out in the last four years show that we are more willing to give up food, sleep and sex than part with our mobile phones. So, we are talking about something that isn’t just a nice to have, it is a necessity (OK, maybe it’s also an addiction but it doesn’t change the argument). Surely we can expect more from our mobile phone operators. Unfortunately not. But there is a glimmer of hope. In February of this year, when the mobile operators thought that the UK roaming dragon was slain and the government was too tied up with Brexit, they were hit with 150 page government document that threatens legislation if they don't do something to improve roaming. It shouldn’t be necessary, but if customer experience cannot be improved through natural competition, bring on regulation.

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