The latest generation of phones is causing customers to queue around the block. Tech programs are going into overdrive talking about features, edgeless screens, biometrics and front-facing cameras.
While the tech may be ticking boxes, what about the providers? Mobile phone service providers may offer you the latest handset upgrades and plenty of free texts, but if you have a problem then who answers the phone quickest, who has the best call centre and who gives you that extra special customer service experience? Time to find out.
Somethings really are too good to be true
Rule number one is to avoid tempting adverts. Every carrier is very good at promotion. It’s whether they’re any good at the aftercare and service that really matters. Those fantastic deals carriers offer in slick advertisements may look seriously tempting, but you’ll also notice a sea of small print at the bottom of the screen. That’s just the contractual obligations they’re required to tell you about up front (such as contract length, monthly fees and charges, roaming costs etc), and once you look at your contract you’ll see that it’s the tip of a very big iceberg floating on a sea of get-out clauses.
It’s important to do your homework thoroughly before you pick a carrier, not just with regard to the latest model of phone and how much data allowance you get every month, but to find out about how they look after their customers, whether that hefty allowance is rolled over, or if there’s a more suitable deal for your particular level of usage.
The Market Players
Putting aside the handset issue for the moment (where carriers are pretty much on a level playing field), let’s have a quick look at the major players in the UK market.
Probably the largest and best-known of the carriers, they have a good track record when it comes to customer service quality, and put loyalty rewards at the top of their list of customer perks. Inclusive roaming in 47 European destinations also makes them popular with travellers who don’t want to get stung with high roaming charges abroad.
The granddaddy of the bunch, Vodafone is still going strong and has excellent coverage in both the UK and Europe. They too have introduced inclusive roaming, and have a good choice of tariffs. Vodafone’s customer service number is good, but it can take a while to get through to a real person on their support lines.
Slick, trendy, and with the emphasis on providing superfast 4G speeds up to five times faster than 3G, they’re let down a little bit by their patchy coverage, even in city centres.
This popular provider piggybacks off the EE 4G network, so it’s technical specs are good. It’s also keen to emphasise that the company has UK-based customer care centres, and have really put the onus on providing a friendly, trustworthy service.
Cheap, cheerful, and very popular among younger users, this contract-free service was recently voted uSwitch Network of the Year 2017. Its tagline – ‘The mobile network run by you’ – makes it feel friendly, with a real community spirit. Consequently, it has a very good reputation when it comes to their customer services. With no contractual obligations to tie customers to the brand, Giffgaff has to work harder to keep their customers from jumping to other providers.
6. BT Mobile
Mobile contracts are a very small part of the BT operation, despite being the main provider of communication infrastructure across the UK. BT still has a bit of a struggle when it comes to its customer care reputation, but does offer packages that bundle everything from mobile contracts through to TV and broadband into one easy-to-manage contract.
There are plenty of other providers such as Virgin Mobile, Three Mobile, and even Tesco, so the best option is to use a comparison site to get the lowdown on deals, offers, and rates.
Go for the smaller carriers for a personalised service
Picking the most popular carrier isn’t always the right decision, and you’ll need to think about what exactly you want from your provider. If you’re a frequent traveller then Three Mobile’s excellent overseas service would be a good choice. However, Lebara Mobile, a very small company that piggybacks off Vodafone’s network, delivers some of the cheapest international call rates on offer.
Smaller providers also have to work harder to build their customer base, so you’ll usually find that their customer service is far friendlier, more personal, and deliver a better customer experience.