Optus outguns Telstra for customer satisfaction

Optus has topped Australia's Internet service providers (ISP) tally, recording the highest levels of customer satisfaction, according to a new user survey.

For the third time in a row, AC Nielsen.consult's Internet survey found Optus customers were the happiest Internet users across Australia's top 10 ISPs, with 88 per cent extremely satisfied or satisfied with the telco's level of service.

Optus was closely followed by Pacific Internet with 87 per cent, while Austar recorded 84 per cent user satisfaction levels. Telstra's Big Pond Home service came in eighth, with 75 per cent of users either satisfied or extremely satisfied.

Optus also ranked in first for its technical support and overall customer service.

The survey, which is undertaken by AC Nielsen every six months, was conducted in April and May this year. Around 40,000 Australians contributed to the latest study.

ACNielsen.Consult CEO Ramin Marzbani said interestingly, smaller provider Pacific Internet took poll position for speed of connection, and rated the lowest levels of busy signals and helpdesk call holding times.

Marzbani argued Pacific Internet was able to achieve these levels by offering a more personalised service.

"Having a smaller helpdesk results in a more personalised service, where users get to know the staff," he said.

Marzbani said smaller or more niche ISPs such as Pacific Internet also attract more experienced Internet users, who tend to stay with their provider for longer.

On the other hand, "Telstra is out there advertising for brand new customers," he said.

OzEmail and AOL also recorded high levels of satisfaction across their service variable offerings. Notably, Big Pond did not feature in the top three for any of these categories.

Additionally, the percentage of users dissatisfied with Internet services from both Big Pond Home and TPG increased since the last survey in late 2001.

Marzbani said to be fair to Telstra, the telco does attract a larger amount of users across a wider area of Australia that its competitors. He did admit however, that the telco's customer satisfaction levels are sliding.

As a whole, the AC Nielsen found Australian households were more content with their dial-up providers than their telephony and mobile phone counterparts.

The survey reported 82 per cent of at-home Internet users were either extremely satisfied or satisfied with their Internet services provider. This was well ahead of the 67 per cent of mobile users who felt similarly about their mobile telephony provider, and the 62 per cent who were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with their fixed-line provider.

Marzbani said most services offered online receive higher satisfaction ratings.

"Internet services such as online banking for example, get a higher satisfaction rating because users don't get any attitude with the service," he said. "You can't blame someone else for bad service."

Despite these results, resolving problems online has a long way to go before it reaches the same satisfaction levels as phone or face-to-face communications, he said.

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Nadia Cameron

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