2010 Whirlpool survey focuses on the NBN


Australia’s most controversial and perhaps largest internet forum has just opened the doors of its flagship annual survey, which will poll readers throughout January on their broadband purchasing habits and general opinion about the telecommunications market in general. And the focus in 2010? The National Broadband Network.

Whirlpool’s Australian Broadband Survey has long been seen as one of the key indicators of consumer sentiment when it comes to issues in the telecommunications sector.

Although the survey — conducted annually in January — only usually returns around 20,000 or more responses, increasing every year, the site has pointed out that its readership is composed of informed buyers of broadband services in Australia.

“The group surveyed are more likely to be advising friends, family and co-workers on which ISP to join,” the site wrote when it disclosed the results of its 2009 survey. “Broadband service providers should pay close attention to this demographic, as their influence wields significant impact.”

In the past few years (2009, 2008, 2007), the survey has focused on issues as diverse as Labor’s mandatory internet filtering project, the uptake of wireless internet and migration to the laptop platform, the early stages of the NBN policy and even who has been the most effective Federal Communications Minister over the past decade (Stephen Conroy won that vote in 2008).

In addition, it polls users on what broadband services and hardware they use, as well as their satisfaction with their broadband providers.

Where in 2009 the survey focused heavily on Labor’s filtering project, this year’s survey touches on the current hot button issue — the NBN. It asks readers how they rate the Government’s handling of the NBN so far, whether they supported the opt-out policy being taken up by Tasmania and rejected in Victoria, whether they will take up NBN services when offered, and how much they would be willing to pay for such services.

The survey also acts as a key benchmark for how satisfied users are with their broadband providers.

In the 2009 survey, for example, it was evident that a number of broadband providers had invested heavily in their customer support over the past year compared with 2008, with significant decreases in the amount of respondents who noted they had had to wait more than 20 minutes for a provider to respond to their call.

The year before, in 2008, Whirlpool had seen a drop in the customer service performance of two of the largest providers — Telstra and TPG, while others such as iiNet, Internode, Westnet, Exetel, Netspace and Amnet made small gains.

Then too, the survey results have not always been free of controversy.

In 2005, a spokesperson for Telstra’s BigPond brand criticised the results — which saw most respondents rating its customer service as ‘awful’ or ‘average’ — as using “extremely basic methodology” and not being representative of the wider community.

Ongoing trends which could impact the survey results this year include the ongoing push by current Telstra chief executive David Thodey to improve the company’s customer service track record, as well as any impact of iiNet’s ongoing integration of the Netspace and AAPT customer bases it has acquired over the past several years into its own.

Image credit: Hanspeter Klasser, royalty free


    • While the article was mostly useful, I would argue that 20,000 respondents for a total popualtion of 20 million is anything but a small sample size. It is actually a very good sample size. Most companies and political parties could never afford such a representative sample.

  1. Just finished filling out the survey and this article popped up on my RSS – great piece of journalism Renai, I really liked this article!

  2. “Although the survey — conducted annually in January — only usually returns around 20,000 or more responses, increasing every year…”

    err……20,000 – that’s a pretty big sample I would have thought. What are the survey samples offered by the political polsters? Around 1000?

      • 22 Million don’t actually pay for internet services, so that’s a bit silly to suggest, it’s closer to ~9.6 million services [ source: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0/ ].

        Having said that, the total number of actual people using the internets is going to be somewhere between the two.

        20,000 is not really stastically substantial, but it does have a history of representing a moderately informed group of people, and it’s likely a big enough sample size for many ISPs to get something out of it.

    • The difference is that political polling is a RANDOM sample of the population. With a truly random sample, ~1,000 is statistically significant (and the pollsters go to enormous lengths to ensure they take a random sample, or at least to control any systemic bias).

      The Whirlpool survey, on the other hand, is heavily self-selected towards tech-savvy people and so it’s not really representative of the population as a whole. But as Whirlpool likes to point out, the tech-savvy crowd is generally a “weather vane” for the population as a whole when it comes to IT-related topics.

      • Also keep in mind tech savvy Whirlpool readers influence their friends and family with better ISP choices. I have lost count of the number of friends I have recommended move over to Internode. None have regretted the decision.

  3. Previous surveys indicate that by far the vast majority that answer the survey are Internode customers, I don’t think customers of the two biggest ISP’s in Australia Bigpond and Optus know that Whirlpool exists, or even care.

    It is mildly amusing entertainment as long as you recognise the bias of the population sample.

    • The ‘bias’ of the population sample is only so far that the respondents are generally incredibly well informed consumers who won’t tolerate a substandard service at an unreasonable price.

      If providers like Internode, Westnet, iiNet et al consistently poll well in these annual surveys, it’s for legitimate reasons.

      @ Andrew and ‘wrong result’. You clearly don’t grasp statistics very well. If 10,000 people responded for Internode and rated their service ‘Good’, and 100 people responded for Telstra and rated their service ‘Excellent’, Telstra would achieve the higher result. You simply get a more accurate result with the more responses you get.

      • Edit: .. But, I will be interested to see the improvements of Telstra Bigpond in the value segment of the survey results.

        • bigpond could be giving away free internet and they will still poll at the bottom, its the nature of the majority of whirlpoolians to hate anything bigpond/telstra

          as far as this survey goes, sure it strokes a few egos and shows who people favour but how it affects the bigger picture is really unknown but alas the fanboys will have us believe internode are taking over the world and telstra are going down. laughable if nothing else

          • Not entirely true. Ive been on whirlpool for just over 6 years now, and in the past have been very against telstra for various reasons (Used their service in 2006-2007). However with the release of their new plans I’ve actually churned over to their top priced ADSL2+ service. The service itself is very good, although customer service still has a long way to go. Ive given an honest review of the ISP, regardless of what i previously thought about them.

            The one interesting thing you’ll find with people in IT, is they’ve generally got enough integrity to make a fair call regardless of history or “general” opinions. It will be interesting to see the results.

      • Those ISP’s you mentioned may well provide good service, then again if Optus or BigPond had such a small client base they too could run their call centre from one small office in Adelaide and provide ‘excellent response times and service’ as well

        • Hang on, Telstra and Optus have a huge market, therefore lots of customers and margin, both retail and wholesale (let’s call it something random like ARPU). How does the logic fit that just because the smaller ISPs have less customers they can ‘afford’ to supply better service from an Australian based call centre. Customer service is ratio based; reliability of services vs customer base vs trained people on the phones to take the calls – who can actually fix the problem.

          If ARPU’s are around the same, and they’re not (those who wholesale make a bundle) then how does your statement work? Please educate us on the economics of your statement.

  4. Internode will always look good because it has smaller customer base compared to the larger isps

    Which gives a completely wrong result to the real world

    • Wrong result? I’m sorry…that Telstra and Optus’ Customer service is in poor shape since the 2005 sample…..yep, wild call there!

  5. Cant realy say Bigpond has bad customer service work in a mobile pc repair job eveytime i need to call them and get somthing fixed it usually gets done pretty quick … And most of the ppl you talk to are pretty good

    Polls in general are prety usless ppl change there mind so often it doesnt mean anything

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