LONDON: Every day in the UK, an estimated 3 million negative opinions are exchanged about the country's leading providers of bundled telecoms, TV and broadband packages, making them even more detested than banks.
"Vital but unloved" was the conclusion of Keller Fay, the market research firm specialising in word of mouth (WOM), as it analysed data from its TalkTrack programme and found that negative WOM for this group was higher than for most other sectors.
Of the five major providers of these home communications services, BT and TalkTalk were the most criticised while Plusnet, the most recent entrant, emerged as the best in terms of consumer sentiment.
TalkTalk had attracted 29% negative WOM in the 12 months to January 2014, a figure which was almost three times the UK all-category average (10%). The performance of BT was not much better, receiving negative press in over a quarter (26%) of discussions.
Plusnet registered the lowest levels of criticism (10%) and while it achieved the highest level of positive sentiment, at 58%, it still fell below the UK all-category average of 62%. Keller Fay noted that its significant WOM advantage had been reflected in strong market share growth during 2013.
Sky and Virgin Media occupied the middle ground with 18% and 17% negative WOM respectively.
Overall, BT was found to be the most talked-about brand in the sector, but Sky got more brand WOM if conversations about TV programmes and channels were included.
In addition, more than 60% of brand conversations referenced media or marketing activity, a figure which was higher than the all-industry average. And the vast majority of all conversations (94%) were taking place offline with face-to-face (78%) the dominant mode.
According to Keller Fay, those people involved in negative conversations cite "having a bad experience with a supplier" as the main trigger to the discussion. The subsequent talk typically focused on expensive prices, bad service and advice on changing provider.
Ofcom, the communications regulator, has previously noted that cost and poor service are commons reasons for people to switch provider and it recently outlined ways in which it aimed to improve the consumer experience, including measures to enable them to switch more easily.
"Consumers will give praise where it is due," said Steve Thomson, MD of Keller Fay UK, "and the best performers in the sector attract significantly more brand advocacy than their competitors."
Data sourced from Keller Fay, Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff