Fixed Line Customer Satisfaction Drops, After Years of "Higher" Ratings
In recent years, consumer satisfaction with fixed network phone service has generally been higher than for Internet access or subscription TV service, though consumer telecom, mobile and video entertainment services typically rank at the bottom of cross-industry rankings.
In 2013, for example, customer satisfaction with fixed telephone service was higher than for mobile service, Internet access or video entertainment. But that seems to be changing, which could indicate that the remaining customer base for fixed line voice now values the product much less than once was the case.
The thinking has been that since so many customers had abandoned all use of fixed line service, the remaining customers were a self-selected group of people for whom the value of fixed line service was relatively high.
But in the latest survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, customer satisfaction with fixed network telephone service fell 5.5 percent to 69. In 2013, the score had been 74. In terms of ACSI rankings, that is a big drop.
As sometimes is the case, specialized and smaller providers score better than larger providers.
Despite slipping three percent to 76, the average ACSI score of smaller local and long distance providers is much better than that of large providers, the ACSI says.
Vonage and Bright House Networks are near the top of the category (both 73). CenturyLink dipped one percent to 70, while Verizon declined seven percent to 68.
Cox Communications dropped three percent to tie Verizon’s score. Cablevision Systems scored a 67.
AT&T’s landline service dipped the most, down 10 percent to 65. Comcast slipped four percent to 64 while Time Warner Cable declined three percent to 63.
To be sure, 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.
That might seem an odd result, given the greater choice, and better prices, enabled by Google Fiber, third party ISPs, mobile service providers and other suppliers generally adding retail packages with higher value (faster speeds, bigger usage buckets) and lower price.
One might argue that fierce competition actually is reducing consumer satisfaction. That could happen for any number of reasons. Perhaps existing customers see new advertised offers and evaluate their existing services less favorably.
Customers might be more confused, wondering whether they now have the “best deal” or “best plan” or “best provider” for the combination of value, features and price.
In the case of fixed line voice, where satisfaction had been--at least for a communications service--relatively high, the lower satisfaction could indicate that even the remaining customers now are having greater questions about the value of the service.
In other cases, consumers might be irritated by the need to buy a triple play service, when all they really want is a double play (Internet access and video), to get the best price.
Overall, the dropping satisfaction scores now extend across every segment of the communications business.