Complaint resolution is often very difficult when consent to pay for a service is provided unknowinglyKey insights: We live in an increasingly friction-free world. This provides benefits of ease, speed and convenience. But, it also means that people can provide consent and authorisation for a phone paid services without really knowing or realising. This has led to major increase in the number of complaints related to digital content and online services, including adult content, online competitions and some betting services. Typically, considerable effort is needed to get their complaint resolved, given the great difficulty in disproving that they knowingly purchased the service. Conclusions, from the consumer perspective, suggest the need for Telco and mobile network operators to make it easier to locate the service provider and to alert customers about recurring charges so that customers can take more immediate action.What we did: The Phone-paid Services Authority asked us to conduct consumer research to better understand experiences of customer care and complaint handling in the phone-paid services market. To do this, we conducted an initial inline survey to identify and profile a total of 1,174 complainants. We then selected 40 of these complainants, along with 16 drawn from lists provided by the PSA, and interviewed them in depth by telephone.Link to published work: The PSA: Customer Care and Complaint HandlingOur work with the PSA: The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) is first and foremost a consumer protection body. Its mission is to protect consumers from harmful practices and to further their interests through promoting competition, innovation and market growth. A major consideration in this is the need to increase consumer confidence and trust. Futuresight has worked with the PSA in a way that helps to bring about positive change in regulation that is both beneficial to consumers and acceptable to service providers.
Lack of trust is a major barrier to engaging with the communications services marketKey insights: A range of barriers to engaging the communications markets that relate primarily to lack of trust. These were lack of perceived price transparency, difficulty in comparing products and offers due to perceived complexity and lack of comparability. During the showing around task, nearly half of our study participants did not feel able to make an informed decision and considered it preferable to stay with their current provider, despite paying more than they needed to. Potential options to improve engagement related to greater ease in comparing deals on a like-for-like basis, more transparency and simpler tariff structures. In addition, a strong demand was evident for an end of contract notification of any price increase or change to their service before these came into effect. Combined, these measures acted well to both increase confidence and spur people to shop around.What we did: Ofcom commissioned Futuresight to conduct qualitative research to identify and better understand barriers to engagement and what might encourage less engaged consumers to participate more. Our research included a task that asked participants to shop around to find the best deal. In this, our particularly focus was on key drivers and barriers to engagement, specific methods used to shop around. We also showed participants a range of potential options, including an end of contract notification, that may encourage greater engagement. A total of 176 consumers took part in a series of initial and reconvened focus groups and individual interviews.Link to published work: Ofcom: Consumer Engagement with Communication ServicesOur work with Ofcom: Futuresight has worked regularly with Ofcom over the past 10 years on a wide range of projects, from stakeholder research to spectrum auction reviews. The majority of our work, however, is focused on regulatory issues in the telecoms market and, in particular, customer fairness and competition.
When seeking to resolve problems, consumers are still going around
in circlesKey insights: in 2013, the Panel published its report ‘Going round in circles? The consumer experience of dealing with problems with communications services’ which found that some consumers’ experiences were so poor that they would suffer in silence or 'get by' on a sub-standard service. Our research in 2018, suggests that consumers continue to struggle with ongoing problems without pursuing them further with their provider. Procedural barriers put in place by the provider can also present a challenge for consumers, with disabled people and people in vulnerable circumstances disproportionately affected. Scripted answers, jargon, unclear questions and language and cultural variances could further complicate matters. Some consumers give up after making an initial contact because of being repeatedly passed to different agents or departments. There is a broader issue of providers not recording notes about the problem the consumer is describing. Consumers had a low propensity to make formal complaints and there was limited knowledge of ADR schemes or other third parties.What we did: The Panel commissioned Futuresight to undertake in-depth, qualitative interviews with 74 consumers. We particularly wanted to understand the experiences of people in more vulnerable circumstances, as well as disabled people, older people and those running micro businesses.Link to published work: CCP: Still Going Round in Circles – Complaints Handling in TelecomsOur work with CCP: Futuresight has helped the Communications Consumer Panel to carry out research, that provides advice and encourages Ofcom, Government, the EU, industry and others to look at issues through the eyes of consumers, citizens and small businesses.See: www.communicationsconsumerpanel.org.uk
How to reduce ‘friction’ whilst
maintaining security and privacyAs the digital economy expands, individuals, businesses and governments are looking for ways to interact easily online without compromising security and privacy. To gain insights into consumers’ evolving attitudes to mobile and digital services, the GSMA Personal Data Programme commissioned Futuresight to ascertain service providers’ perspectives on authentication, identification and Mobile Connect. Futuresight conducted 50 qualitative telephone and in-person interviews with service providers, including 17 government agencies and banks, in the USA, UK, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia and India. Our report was written primarily for governments and banks that could benefit from adopting Mobile Connect. Please see report here
How much does a fixed broadband
service actually cost?In 2015, Ofcom collaborated with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to assess whether current advertising for the fixed broadband market provides fixed broadband decision-makers with information that is sufficiently clear to allow them to make informed choices and to avoid them being misled. Ofcom and the ASA commissioned Futuresight to conduct qualitative and quantitative research among 300 fixed broadband decision-makers. The overall objectives of this study were to test and assess fixed broadband decision-makers’ ability to identify and correctly calculate the total cost per month and any other pricing information relevant to the offer being advertised. The research comprised a communication test and in-depth assessment of responses to a representative selection of TV, press and outdoor advertising, plus fixed broadband offers presented by fixed broadband providers online. A key finding was that 81% of broadband decision-makers were unable to determine the total cost of the broadband deal advertised. Please see report here
Privacy fears hold back the growth
of mobile apps and servicesKey insights: Mobile users’ privacy fears are holding back the growth of mobile apps and services and there is a need for policy makers to engage with industry and support a philosophy of “privacy by design”.What we did: The GSMA wanted to understand attitudes towards privacy and the impact on behaviour amongst mobile owners around the world. We devised a combination of qualitative interviews and large-scale quantitative surveys with mobile users in the UK, Spain, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia and Indonesia.Link to published work: Consumer Insight and Considerations for Policymakers 2012-2014Our work with The GSMA: The GSM Association (GSMA) is the representative body of over 800 mobile operators worldwide and, in addition, represents the interests of 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem. The GSMA also organises the largest annual event in the mobile industry: the GSMA Mobile World Congress. Please see: Mobile World Congress.Futuresight works regularly with the GSMA a wide range of high profile mobile projects, exploring the fast pace of change in the global mobile consumer and business markets. Our recent work is focused on regulatory issues and the development of mobile devices as the single ‘key' for people to be securely identified or authenticated when accessing a digital service.
There’s more in it for consumers
to stick than to switchKey insights: Rather than switching, consumers increasingly demand that their current communications service provider gives them what they think they can get elsewhere. Negotiating often secures the same (or sometimes bigger) benefits without the perceived hassle or uncertainty of actually switching. In short, there’s more in it for consumers to stick than to switch.What we did: We used an interactive electronic diary, allowing survey participants seeking to switch to report their in-the-moment experiences. This allowed is to monitor experiences and interactions with current and potential communications service provider, with a facility to question and probe into these experiences and interactions in real time. We later followed up with series of focus group discussions across the four nations to delve deeper into thoughts and feelings about the diary content that they had recorded.Link to published work: Consumer Experience of SwitchingOur work with Ofcom: Futuresight has worked regularly with Ofcom over the past 10 years on a wide range of projects, from stakeholder research to spectrum auction reviews. The majority of our work, however, is focused on regulatory issues in the telecoms market and, in particular, customer fairness and competition.
Complex tariffs and lack of transparency remain as barriers to switchingKey insights: Consumers find it difficult to make comparisons and tend to avoid switching because of the complexity of navigating multiple switching processes.What we did: Ofcom wished to investigate the impact of bundled purchasing on consumers’ ability to shop around and switch. A phased qualitative approach, including groups, an interactive web-based diary and follow up interviews, with consumers who were interested in switching.Mobile Privacy: Switching Bundled Packages (PDF download)Our work with Ofcom: Futuresight has worked regularly with Ofcom over the past 10 years on a wide range of projects, from stakeholder research to spectrum auction reviews. The majority of our work, however, is focused on regulatory issues in the telecoms market, in particular customer fairness and competition.
Getting online: not able to,
or don’t want to?Key insights: Some of the most vulnerable and socially isolated of people in our society are offline, despite the self-evident benefits of participating in the online world. To be online is second-nature to most of us, but can be alien and alienating to the few. The offline world is more familiar and comforting by comparison. It is not just that those who are offline feel unable, it is that they don’t want to. This presents significant challenges to government and commercial organisations seeking to reduce the operating costs of traditional channels and requires a deep-rooted emotional and motivational approach rather than a rational skills-based one.What we did: The Communications Consumer Panel wished to examine the journey to full digital participation in the UK and assess where efforts need to improve. We designed and executed a UK-wide qualitative research with stakeholders, government, frontline practitioners and UK citizens, particularly in low participating areas.Link to published work: Bridging the Gap: Sustaining Online EngagementOur work with the Communications Consumer Panel: Futuresight has helped the Communications Consumer Panel to carry out research, that provides advice and encourages Ofcom, Government, the EU, industry and others to look at issues through the eyes of consumers, citizens and small businesses.
Communications services are essential
and so must be affordableKey insights: Advances in technology, market developments and changes in end-user demand has meant that communications services have now become indispensable to most in society. These services address profound and fundamental needs in the areas of safety and security, social inclusion, access to information, education, employment opportunities and economic well-being. Access to the internet is now considered widely to be a universal right with implications for affordability as a barrier to take-up.What we did: Ofcom wished to update its understanding and definition of essential telecoms services, as well as assess overall affordability for these services by UK citizens. We conducted a large UK-wide qualitative research programme interviewing 207 middle and low income consumers in 21 locations.Link to published work: Affordability of Essential Communications ServicesOur work with Ofcom: Futuresight has worked regularly with Ofcom over the past 10 years on a wide range of projects, from stakeholder research to spectrum auction reviews. The majority of our work, however, is focused on regulatory issues in the telecoms market, in particular customer fairness and competition.
Note: all information reported above is published in the public domain.