The telecommunication industry says it's trying hard to improve customer satisfaction.

Its pledge comes after an MBIE report this morning that highlighted phone companies and ISPs' poor service.

The industry generates the most complaints, although is eclipsed by other services when it comes to the severity of disruption on peoples' lives.

MBIE Consumer Protection Manager Mark Hollingsworth said, "In the 2018 survey we asked more questions about the reported problem and its impact on consumers' everyday lives. This was to enable us to understand more about the severity of problems across industries and help us understand the aspects of the resolution process that are pain points for consumers.

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"For example, while 'home-based telecommunication services' followed by 'building, repairs, renovations or maintenance on your home' and 'mobile telecommunication services' had the highest incidence of perceived problems, problems relating to 'motor vehicle sales' were found to have the most severe impact on consumers' everyday lives; and 'insurance' problems were the most time consuming for consumers to try and resolve."

MBIE's finding, which was based on a survey of 2600 New Zealanders aged 18 or over, follows a Commerce Commission report that found that Spark (2), Vodafone (3) and 2degrees (5) were all in its list of the companies that generated the most customer complaints (the list was topped by controversial ticket reseller Viagogo).

Excuses, excuses

This afternoon, Geoff Thorn - head of the Telecommunications Forum that represents most phone companies and ISPs - acknowledged the MBIE report had found telecommunications has the highest incidence of problems.

Thorn said the New Zealand Telecommunications Industry has been working hard to improve customer satisfaction.

But he also had an excuse, saying "This outcome is not surprising given the number of connections and associated transactions people have, and that, in the case of fibre, it is new infrastructure that is being rolled out across the country.

"The average New Zealand household has 4.6 telecommunications connections, so there is always going to be a higher level of complaints compared to other consumer goods or services which are more commonly one-off purchases or single services."

Tell it to the TDR

Thorn also noted that people who have an issue with their phone company or ISP can take their complaint to the free Telecommunications Dispute Resolution service or TDR, an independent body backed by the industry and the Crown and headed by Consumer alumnus David Russell.

Today's MBIE report found nearly all consumers are aware there are laws protecting their rights, but fewer than half had any clue how they worked.

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If you need to school-up, the government agency has a series of online guides to your rights, and how to make a complaint,here.

Cleaning up their act - or at least automating it

Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone have all invested in automating their help systems over the past couple of years in a bid to speed help desk response, deploying online forms, chatbots and VR assistants.

Vodafone NZ is in the latter stages of a sweeping restructure that will see a number of help desk and tech support jobs outsourced to Indian company Tech Mahindra.

The telco says the reorganisation, accompanied by an investment of more than $20m in new technology, will help improve service.

It says a call centre meltdown last week was the result of problems with a Philippines based contractor, who is being dropped.