Will TalkTalk hold onto customers as its first broadband contracts come to an end?

TalkTalk changed the broadband market forever with the launch of its “free broadband” service in April last year. The uptake was huge with 340,000 customers signing up in the first eight weeks, but TalkTalk failed to anticipate its popularity and was unable to cope with demand.

Now, there are just two weeks to go (11 October) until those first customers - many of whom waited weeks or even months to be connected - will be out of their 18 month contracts and free to switch provider.

But having invested a whopping £15 million on improving its abysmal customer service has TalkTalk done enough to keep its customers?

Michael Phillips, BroadbandChoices.co.uk product director, comments: “It is easy to dismiss TalkTalk after their long-running, well documented problems, but their free broadband offer revolutionised the telecoms market, paving the way for a host of money saving bundles.

“I always advise customers to seek out new deals when their contracts are up as the best offers invariably go to new customers. They can also offer to re-contract with their existing supplier as many ISPs will offer incentives to keep them. Anyone coming to the end of their TalkTalk contract and wanting to switch should definitely shop around before doing so - making sure they think about their needs as a consumer.”

The market is changing

“This is a fast-moving market and a lot has changed in the past 18 months. The digital TV switchover is looming and the focus has moved from home phone and broadband to tripleplay bundles including television.

“Price was obviously the major attraction for TalkTalk customers, but those same customers now have the choice of ‘free’ broadband from TalkTalk competitors such as Orange and Sky, ‘free’ line rental at some Tiscali exchanges, and even ‘free’ digital TV from BT or Virgin Media.

“However, while people shouldn’t have to choose between price and service, they need to accept that if they’re getting broadband as a ‘free’ add-on, it’s unlikely to be of the highest quality and they need to bear this in mind when taking any such package.”

Learning from their mistakes

“After their undoubtedly frustrating experience with TalkTalk, customers need to do their research before signing up to a new provider. They should look at surveys conducted by trusted companies like Which? to see how TalkTalk bears up on customer service. Despite its investment, TalkTalk fails to top customer service reviews, as do other ‘free broadband’ providers. Consumers should also take speed into account as providers are advertising ever-faster broadband speeds but few customers actually achieve them - check our monthly Speed Tester results to see how each provider fares.”

Consider solo suppliers

“Finally, those people who don’t want to sacrifice any of their services should think about taking their home phone, broadband and digital TV from separate suppliers. There has been a backlash against bundling in the US and anyone wanting to combine high-speed, reliable broadband with cheap home phone call charges and a comprehensive TV package should consider following in their footsteps and paying a little extra for a superior service.”