Telecommunication providers have been told by Ofcom to improve customer service after call centre waiting times for broadband almost doubled in length last year.
Research suggests that people waited an average of four minutes and nine seconds to get through to an adviser about their broadband and landline in 2020, an increase of one minute and 59 seconds on 2019.
Mobile users were also held up for around two minutes and seven seconds, up from one minute and 18 the previous year.
The regulator acknowledges that companies were forced to implement new working arrangements for staff due to the pandemic but said it expects performance to return to at least 2019 levels as restrictions ease.
Virgin Media customers were faced with some of the longest waiting times, clocking up an average of seven minutes and 40 seconds for broadband and landline queries, while mobile users queued for about six minutes and 44 seconds.
As well as calling for complaint handling to be improved across the sector, the regulator has told firms to ensure customers do not find it harder to leave compared to signing up.
However, Ofcom said many companies have also made progress against fairness commitments agreed in 2019, providing fairer deals, clearer information and better support overall.
It highlighted that most major mobile operators have cut prices for out-of-contract customers on bundled airtime and handset deals.
“Telecoms companies adapted quickly to meet soaring demand for their services last year – helping to keep the country connected,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director.
“But some have struggled with customer service problems.
“We’re challenging them to act now, so the telecoms industry becomes the gold standard for customer service.”
Nine in 10 mobile customers were satisfied with their service overall, though Three scored slightly lower (86%) than the market average (90%).
Eight in 10 broadband customers (80%) said they were satisfied.