UK telcos have been given a 'must try harder' rating in a newly published international customer service study.
British telcos' websites scored a Customer Respect Index (CRI) of 5.8 out of 10, slightly above average for a range of industries but just below their US and Canadian counterparts.
The study, carried out by the Massachusetts-based Customer Respect Group, looked at UK, US and Canadian telcos, including 14 UK telecoms, wireless, cable and mobile companies.
Each company was given a CRI rating in various areas, reflecting customer experience when communicating with the company online.
Only O2 received an 'Excellent Customer Respect' rating with 7.4. In joint second place were Kingston Communications and Virgin Mobile with 6.7, followed in descending order by TalkTalk, BT, easyMobile, Vodafone, NTL, Tesco Mobile, Orange, T-Mobile, Telewest Broadband, 3g and, finally, Toucan, which scored just 3.7.
On average, the UK firms fared well in the area of one-to-one communications. More than seven out of 10 customer emails received a 'quality' response measured by content of the answer as well as speed.
US companies received an average 5.7 in this area, and Canadian companies 6.0.
UK companies also scored well for 'site inclusion', for example support for users without broadband access or older machines, and users with visual impairments or other disabilities.
On trust and privacy issues, the two best scoring companies across the whole survey were O2 and BT. But on average, the UK telcos scored badly in this area.
Only four of the 14 UK companies used personal data solely for the purpose for which it was provided, and 70 per cent were found to have "routinely" reused information for ongoing marketing without explicit permission from the user.
O2 and BT aside, UK companies were also judged to be less clear about privacy policies than the US and Canadian companies.
Customer Respect Group president Terry Golesworthy said: "The UK telcos have paid attention to broad site usability, and it is refreshing to see online communications and email taken seriously as vital to customer acquisition and retention.
"But too many companies have taken liberties with the increased amount of information that can be, and is, collected.
"Customers have so many new choices and have shown that information protection is important to them, so industry members should heed their privacy concerns."
The full 'scorecard' is available from the Customer Respect Group website.
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