We have 3,164 customer reviews in our Internet Service Provider category — 1,162 are 1 star.
It’s frustrating for consumers: 50 million U.S. homes have just one 25 mbps service provider, if that. And 48 percent of homes have only one 25 mbps choice. The lack of options and availability has many Americans stuck with a provider they believe is delivering subpar service.
Most categories on our site average around one-third of reviews being 1-star, so the ISP category is slightly above average.
We sampled 124 of these 1-star reviews to see what insights — and warnings — they had for other consumers and the industry itself.
Here’s a summary of our findings. Below, we’ll give our analysis and tips on avoiding your own 1-star experience:
*All reviewers and company names have been removed in the examples below because this study deals with general ISP concerns. If you would like to research a specific company, check out our ISP reviews.
Every industry’s reviews has its quirks. For the ISP category, we noticed a couple interesting trends.
ISP reviews are long, and they have stories to tell.
Reviewers in some other industries might summarize their points more concisely. But for the aggravations of internet companies, many reviewers feel the need to outline their grievances in detail. Frustration A leads to Frustration B, and so on. It becomes a domino effect of bad experiences.
Which leads us to our second interesting finding: One third of 1-star reviewers cited a single negative experience that prompted their review.
A customer might try to solve a service outage, and they’re put on hold for three hours. Or a customer might want a new modem, and they play phone tag for days. These prompt scathing responses on our review site.
This is a compelling data point. Some reviewers even note they were loyal customers for years before the negative experience that prompts their review.
Whatever positive experiences this user might have had to make them stay with the company for eight years, this evaporated with one issue.
Adam Thompson of ReliaSite notes one potential reason for this occurence. “Research has found that it takes 40 positive customer reviews to outweigh a single negative review," he says. "ISPs, by nature, are more likely to generate negative experiences than positive experiences. That’s because your internet service provider is invisible unless/until something goes wrong. . . This makes it nearly impossible for an ISP to generate the needed 40 positive experiences for every 1 negative experience, meaning that they have an overall negative perception.”
Singular negative experiences are less of a concern in categories where users are not locked into a contract or subscription service and where they don’t use a company’s tool on a near-daily basis. For one-off purchases like a logo or hotel, the transaction is often limited to that singular experience, and it’s not unusual if one terrible design or one messy room prompts a bad review.
But if you’re a return customer for well over a year and it turns sour in a day, this highlights how vitriolic a negative interaction is with an internet company. Customer service matters.
One of the most common complaints across all categories is poor customer service. If you have an issue, you want it resolved as painlessly as possible.
But complaints against ISP customer service are particularly scathing.
It’s a familiar story: a customer plays phone tag with their provider for days, waits on hold for hours, faces a maze of automated phone trees, and eventually reaches a customer service rep who can’t help them.
These sorts of stories are common in internet company reviews.
There are dozens of tools to improve customer service. Users have several options for contacting a company. But has all of this become overwhelming when dealing with internet companies? Are the monopolies on internet service causing call centers and customer support to be overloaded with more users than they can help?
As with most things ISP, there’s only so much you can do on your end to ensure you have a positive experience with your provider. But here are some tips that might get you a helpful customer service rep:
Your connection goes in and out, sometimes for hours. Stable internet connection is necessary in today’s world, and it makes sense that this is enough to land ISPs a 1-star review.
And sometimes, it’s truly no one’s fault: you live in a dead zone or there’s interference. But other times, you really should blame your ISP.
Here’s what you can do to reduce spotty connection and prevent a terrible experience with your internet company:
Similar to the issue of unreliable connection, you can have unreliable internet speeds.
It’s normal to get a little less than your advertised speed. Your mbps can vary by connection type (Wi-Fi or wired), channels (2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz), router capabilities, the type of speed test you run, and more.
But if you're only getting almost a third of your advertised speed, even when you test these variables? That’s no good.
Our tips to prevent this issue will be similar to those addressing an unstable connection:
One in four 1-star reviewers believe their ISPs are price gouging, creating fees not outlined in a contract, or scamming them out of money; 15 percent are unhappy with all the extra fees clogging up their bill.
When you're a company that doesn't have competition, you can set whatever price you please. For the lucky Americans who live in regions with multiple high-profile providers, you have some leverage:
Have you ever called a technician out and wondered why you even bothered to schedule an appointment? Some consumers say their technician never showed up. Sometimes the technician can’t find an issue.
This complaint is in the same vein as poor customer support, but the difference is that these in-home visits are supposed to come to the source of an issue and tackle the problem. Not all industries can come to your home to straighten matters out.
But consumers wish these technicians would spend more time searching for their problem or working to solve it. Many of these techs are on tight schedules and are booked for days or even weeks out. If they have only thirty minutes to address your spotty connection, they might have to come back later. And who knows when “later” may be?
While ISPs should provide more technicians to address consumer complaints, consumers themselves can take a few steps that might lead to a more positive experience with a service tech:
In the case of negative ISP reviews, there’s often much more at play than the fault of an intemperate customer.
Lack of competition is giving internet service providers leverage over their customers. ISPs have a history of buying out the competition and suing startup companies that threaten their service regions. Some ISPs don’t care that their customer service is bad, their prices are unreasonable, or their connection is spotty. A lack of alternatives will allow them to retain customers.
It might not hurt to try a local company or smaller provider, or it might be best to stick with some of the few major providers with a track record of success. But whatever you do, be aware that your options are limited, and unless high-level change occurs, it’s likely to stay this way. Try to use the tips we've provided to your advantage when resolving a problem with your ISP.