Are Price Wars, Speed Upgrades Dramatically Changing Customer Satisfaction? It Appears So

One way of interpreting the latest consumer satisfaction rankings from American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is that, in general, consumer satisfaction with network-delivered services (mobile, fixed) increases as prices drop, and drops as prices are increased.

The caveat is that “price” likely has to be viewed in relationship to value. At least theoretically, consumer satisfaction could remain the same, or climb, if value increases even more than price, on some customer-perceived key dimension.

Xfinity (Comcast) subscription TV satisfaction scores dropped six percent to 58. That is a big change, for any industry and any company over a year’s time, perhaps more notably given the introduction of the voice-activated Xfinity X1 TV interface, which arguably makes it far easier for consumers to find something to watch.

Some might also attribute higher apparent satisfaction with lower prices in the mobile service industry.  

Customer satisfaction with mobile service climbed nearly three percent to 73 as price wars between carriers escalated, ACSI notes. Again, a three-percent change in a single year is substantial for ACSI rankings.

Compared with other telecom categories where customer choice is limited, the mobile  industry arguably is far more competitive. Prices are competitive, service is better and customer satisfaction higher, ACSI says.

For the linear subscription TV industry as a whole, customer satisfaction was down 1.5 percent to 64, tied with internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI.

Some firms did better than others, though.

Fios (Verizon Communications) climbed one point to 71), as AT&TU-verse climbed one point  to 70). Suddenlink, part of Altice USA, improved two percent to 63.

The biggest jump was registered by Spectrum (Charter Communications), up five points to 63, in part because its acquired properties Bright House Networks scored higher than legacy Charter.

Cox Communications improved two percent to 60.

Mobile service providers were uniformly higher. TracFone Wireless improved three percent to 77.

Verizon Wireless gained four percent; U.S. Cellular gained three points to reach 74. Sprint rose four percent to 73. AT&T gained one point, to reach a score of 72.

But T-Mobile US dropped one point to 73. As always, a one-point drop or gain is not unusual, for any industry in any given year, unless the direction continues in a succeeding year, one might argue.

The overall point is that a major price war seems to be resulting in higher satisfaction in the mobile service category.

Internet service providers remain unchanged at the bottom of the ACSI industry rankings at a score of 64. Low user satisfaction is the result of slow and unreliable service, compounded by limited competition, ACSI says.

Verizon’s  Fios stays at the top of the category, but also declined three percent to 71. AT&T’s U-verse gained a whopping eight percent, something that is historically highly unusual. AT&T reached a score of 69.

Suddenlink climbed eight percent to 66, likely the result of boosting access speeds and thereby changing the value perception.

Charter’s Time Warner Cable dropped six percent. Comcast’s Xfinity improved two percent to 60,  a four-year high for the company, ACSI says. CenturyLink satisfaction declined six percent to 59.

In the internet access area, value in relationship to price seems to be the story. The firms making the highly-unusual jumps (AT&T, Suddenlink) are dramatically boosting speeds. The firm making highly-unusual declines (CenturyLink) seems unable to compete with cable speeds. So it might be absolute price, but price in relationship to value, which is the problem, or the advantage.

.source: ACSI
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