Customer Satisfaction Falls, Across the Board, for Communications Services

There are some troubling signs about customer satisfaction with virtually every communications service in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index survey.

Customer satisfaction scores for subscription TV, Internet, mobile and fixed line telephone service, plus computer software, collectively dipped 3.4 percent to an ACSI score of 68.8 on a 0 to 100 scale, the lowest level in seven years.

Some segments fared worse than others. Customer satisfaction with subscription TV service dropped to 63, the absolute worst score among 43 industries covered by the Index.

But Internet access service, which one might think would fare better, had the same score of 63, at the bottom of the index, across industries.

ACSI says the decline results from poor customer service and higher prices. The price issue is a bit of a paradox. For the most part, ISPs have been boosting speeds, while holding prices roughly steady, while adding higher-performance tiers, sold at higher prices.

So “prices” are going up, in some cases, but for services with much-higher performance.

Customer service might be another matter.

“There was a time when pay TV could get away with discontented users without being penalized by revenue losses from defecting customers, but those days are over,” says Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman and founder.

The ACSI reports huge drops in customer satisfaction for Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Already one of the lowest-scoring companies in the ACSI, Comcast shed 10 percent to a customer satisfaction score of 54.

Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable earns the distinction as least-satisfying company in the Index after falling 9 percent to 51.

Joining Time Warner Cable in the basement is ACSI newcomer Mediacom Communications (51), which serves smaller markets in the Midwest and South.

With a four percent gain to an ACSI score of 71, Verizon’s FiOS service had the best customer satisfaction score. DIrecTV dipped one percent to 68, while AT&T’s U-verse was unchanged, with a score of 69.

The perception problem for ISPs might be attributed to lack of choice. Some 61 percent of U.S. households have just one or no “high-speed” Internet providers, ACSI maintains.

Since most households have service from two fixed networks and two satellite providers, the issue is the perception of “high speed.” Consumers might no longer generally consider speeds below 25 Mbps to be “high speed.”

Customer satisfaction with ISPs remains unchanged at an ACSI score of 63.

But ACSI says customers are frustrated with “unreliable service, slow broadband Internet speeds and rising subscription prices,” as well as service contracts.

As always, some providers did better than average. AT&T U-verse gained six percent to an ACSI score of 69, while Verizon scored a 68.

Time Warner Cable gained seven percent to 58. Cablevision Systems and Frontier Communications scored a 61.

CenturyLink dropped eight percent, while Cox Communications lost nine percent to score 58.

Comcast’s Internet access service was worst at 56.

Customer satisfaction with mobile service also declined 2.8 percent to 70. TracFone Wireless achieved a score of 77. Verizon Wireless dropped five percent to 71. Both T-Mobile and AT&T improved to 70, while Sprint fell four percent to 65.
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