Subscription TV and internet service providers, typically the worst-rated industries by consumers, see customer satisfaction ratings dip even lower this year, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index annual report on the telecommunications and information sector.
In the report released today, customer satisfaction with subscription television service falls 4.4% to an ACSI score of 65, and internet service slides 3.1% to a score of 63.
ACSI conducted interviews with 12,248 customers in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 and rated the biggest companies on a scale of zero to 100 on overall customer experience, which includes price, quality, reliability, and customer service.
Time Warner Cable’s scores sink particularly low. Across the three categories that include it — fixed-line telephone, internet, and subscription television service — the telecom giant comes in dead last. In subscription TV, it lags behind the entire industry, and slips 7% to an all-time low of 56.
What’s more, when ACSI released its ranking of companies across all sectors in December, Time Warner had the second-worst customer satisfaction ratings out of hundreds of companies.
To be fair, telecom companies score poorly across the board, says ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg. The top-ranked subscription TV services, DIRECTV and AT&T’s U-Verse, score well below the national average across industries of 76. In fact, all eight companies measured saw a drop in ratings in 2014, compared with last year, as you can see in the chart below:
VanAmburg says the combination of high prices and poor reliability drives down customer satisfaction ratings across the board. “It’s a double whammy,” he says. “When you get hiccups, and [service is] slow — combined with what customers perceive to be very high prices — that tends to send satisfaction rates down to the bottom.”
Consumers are more satisfied with fibre optic and satellite service due to competitive prices and higher quality service.
The pricing and reliability issues may be compounded for Time Warner by what customers see as poor customer service, says VanAmburg, which may include experience with a call center, wait times, and navigating the website.
While traditional cable companies might be at a disadvantage in terms of ageing technologies, “there’s no reason why a company can’t provide good, friendly customer service, be they in the cable industry or otherwise,” VanAmburg notes.
In order to see these customer satisfaction ratings improve next year, VanAmburg says programming, pricing, and reliability are the big issues that need to be addressed and that improvements in customer service would also go a long way. Another problem, he says, may be that there’s not enough competition in most markets that customers feel they have a choice or that the big companies feel compelled to dramatically improve their customer service.
“In a way, they have got us,” says VanAmburg. “We need that service. If they’re the only game in town, there isn’t enough competition to really put the fear into them of losing customers unless they step up their game.”
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