Resolver’s top and bottom mobile providers for issue resolution

7 min read
March 04, 2021

Resolver reveals the mobile providers that customers rate for putting things right when they go wrong


For most of us, our mobile phones are a primary source of connection to the outside world – and now this is truer than ever. So when you have an issue with your service – be it connection problems, billing or contract hassles, you want to be sure that your provider will provide the best service when it comes to resolving your complaint.

Our research – based on the analysis of feedback from 14,500 complaint cases from Resolver’s users – is a comprehensive look at how mobile phone providers have been performing for their customers. We’ve looked at everything from how easy it was to get in touch with a company and the length of time it took to respond to or resolve an issue right through to how satisfied customers were with the way their issues had been handled. 

Here we reveal the top and bottom performers across pay-as-you-go and contract (pay monthly) mobile phone providers, but we have also taken a deeper look into the complaints that we’ve seen across the sector. 

The cause of complaints to mobile providers

During 2020 complaints to mobile providers were more noticeable among transaction and payment or product issues. Towards the middle part of the year, transaction and payment issues consistently accounted for between a quarter and a third of the complaints we saw monthly, and these climbed in the summer of last year before dropping over the autumn and winter. The complaints related commonly to billing issues – with reports of customers continuously being charged by their old provider despite switching their contract, or charges creeping up on bills but with no warning.

Complaints remained consistent month by month across the mobile sector, though customer service issues dropped compared to the start of the year. These issues typically related to being unable to sort out issues with faulty products but in a sadly common theme of 2020, the general difficulty in contacting providers in the first place – or getting further help beyond an initial complaint proved a frustration..

‘Transaction and payment issues accounted for up to a third of the complaints we saw through 2020’

Mobile providers have seen fluctuations throughout the pandemic in terms of how customers felt their experience had been handled. Satisfaction and ease of complaining levels dipped at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, but climbed again in the summer to peak in July. As lockdown took hold again in November satisfaction dropped slightly but across all the customers that fed back their experience of their complaint, this was higher than the start of the year. However, response and resolution times (the length of time it took to respond to or resolve an issue) did increase in March 2020, and again in July – when most restrictions were eased – and November.

The top and bottom contract mobile providers

With a Resolver Rating of 86, BT is top of our table for putting things right when they may have gone wrong. BT scored an impressive five stars out of five across most of our seven metrics to measure complaints handling and service, which shows it is a consistent top performer in the category, let down only by the amount of time it took to respond to complaints with a score of two stars. 

Close behind BT are EE and Sky with Resolver Ratings of 79 and 74 respectively. With EE achieving a five star rating for its ease of contact and customer satisfaction, and Sky standing out for resolution times and resolution rates, these companies have risen to the occasion when handling customer complaints compared to others in the sector.

‘BT is top of our table for putting things right when they may have gone wrong’

Other big mobile brands make up the middle of our rankings – but there were some five star ratings compared to their competitors at the top. O2 scored this for its ability to alter negative feelings from customers upon raising the complaint, while Tesco Mobile achieved five stars for response time.

The bottom three companies in our table saw noticeably poorer feedback from their customers. Virgin Mobile limps behind its competitors with one star scores across all our seven metrics, and a Resolver Rating of just 8. Three saw a slightly higher Resolver Rating of 18, but its poor performance in 2020 compared to its competitors for satisfaction, ease and resolution rates, among others shows room for improvement.


Contract mobile providers: Resolver Rating

Advocacy Score
Tesco Mobile48
Virgin Mobile8

The Resolver Rating is made up of the relative performance rankings for companies across seven metrics. As such the end scores are a representation of relative performance across other companies in the table above – in relation to the top score for each metric. 

Contract mobile providers – top performing scores or percentages for each of the seven metrics: 

  • Resolution time: 40 days; 
  • Response time: 7 days; 
  • Resolution rate: 94.1%;
  • Satisfaction: 6.9 / 10; 
  • Ease: 3.6 / 6; 
  • Feeling change: 3.4 / 7; and
  • Customer Advocacy Score (CAS) 5.9 / 10.

The pay-as-you go mobile providers that top our rankings

Our top of the table pay-as-you-go mobile firms EE, Smarty and Giffgaff with Resolver Ratings of 80, 75 and 74 respectively. EE and Giffgaff achieved five stars out of five for ease and advocacy (the likelihood of their customers to recommend them).

Relative newcomers Giffgaff and Smarty edged ahead of EE for its response time and resolution times while EE pipped its podium rivals with a five star score for customer satisfaction.

As with contract mobile firms, our bottom three names for pay-as-you-go providers are Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and Three. Despite a three star score for response time, better than some others in the table, Three’s Resolver Rating of 11 and one star for all other metrics means it sits at the bottom. Vodafone achieved five stars for its resolution rate, but its low scores for the time it took to respond to customers and resolve issues contributed to a Resolver Rating of 39.


Pay-as-you-go mobile providers: Resolver Rating

Advocacy Score
Virgin Mobile14

Pay-as you go mobile – top performing scores or percentages for each of the seven metrics: 

  • Resolution time: 26 days;
  • Response time: 5 days;
  • Resolution rate: 73.5%;
  • Satisfaction: 5.3 / 10; 
  • Ease: 3 / 6; 
  • Feeling change: 2.2 / 7; and
  • Customer Advocacy Score (CAS) 5 / 10.

Our research

Our scores and the overall Resolver Rating (from 1 to 100) are drawn from the feedback of Resolver users, along with measures used to assess response and resolution times. But every bit of feedback has a story behind it and our data specialists analyse all the information in detail.

Every Resolver user is asked how satisfied they are with a company when a case is closed. Resolver requires a minimum of 30 customer feedback responses for a company for it to be included in our analysis.

The Resolver Rating is made up of seven different measures of complaints resolution and service that according to our research are important to customers. These individually assess how a company ranks relative to all other companies in our analysis within a sector.  To get five stars for one of our measurements, a company has to score within the top 20% relative to the rest of the companies in our analysis.

Here’s our rundown of the seven measurements we use to calculate our Resolver Rating for issue resolution and service:

  • Response Time: the time it takes the company to provide an initial response to the customer (number of days – the lower the better)
  • Resolution Time: the time it takes to resolve the complaint (number of days – the lower the better)
  • Resolution Rate: the percentage of the company’s cases satisfactorily resolved from the consumer’s perspective (percentage of cases resolved)
  • Feeling Change: the change in a customer’s sentiment from the beginning to end of a case (rated from -7 to 7)
  • Ease: how easy it is to complain (rated from 0 to 6)
  • Customer Advocacy Score (CAS): how likely the customer is to recommend a company (rated from 0 to 10)
  • Satisfaction: how satisfied the customer is with the company and how it has dealt with the complaint (rated from 0 to 10).

Resolver Recognised: mobile providers

Five providers mentioned in this feature qualify to be Resolver Recognised. Resolver Recognised is our scheme to help consumers find and choose companies that perform the best at putting things right when they go wrong, according to their own customers.

To qualify to be Resolver Recognised, mobile providers must achieve a Resolver Rating of 70 or more. BT, EE, GiffGaff, Sky and Smarty all qualify for Resolver Recognised status.

Only those identified by their customers as truly proving time and again that they put things right with the service they should expect can become Resolver Recognised. When you see the Resolver Recognised logo, you can be confident you will receive excellent service should you have the cause to raise an issue.

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