It’s time again for cable and broadband providers’ annual slap in the face — even as Comcast and others say that they’re really, really, really improving customer service. Still, subscribers are more unhappy than ever, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, as prices rise and appealing alternatives including Netflix and Sling TV grow.
Subscription Television Services and Internet Service Providers (often the same companies) were tied with a benchmark score of 63 — making them by far the lowest rated of all industries in the annual survey of 70,000 customers. They’re right behind the U.S. Postal Service and Fixed Line Telephone Services, with scores of 69. The best satisfaction scores went to manufacturers of Televisions and Video Players (86) and Credit Unions (85).
“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,” ACSI Chairman Claes Fornell says. “Today people have more alternatives than ever before. Consumer abandonment of pay TV is shaking up the industry and lower satisfaction could mean even more cord cutting by subscribers ahead.”
Subscription TV’s group score was down 3.1% from last year. Time Warner Cable was at the bottom, down 9% to 51 — tied with Mediacom, which wasn’t included last year. These were the lowest scores for any of the 300 companies in 43 industries that ACSI tracks.
Comcast saw the biggest drop, falling 10% to 54 — tying the low score it hit in 2008. Charter Communications, now in the process of buying TWC, was up 5% to 63.
Industry leaders were Verizon FiOS (71, up 4%), AT&T U-verse (69, flat), DirecTV (68, down 1%), and Dish Network (67, flat).
Guggenheim Securities’ Michael Morris says that the group’s survey “is indicative of underlying consumer demand for a better customer service alternative, if that product has sufficient video content.”
On the Internet Service side, the companies’ collective score was flat with last year. Comcast was at the bottom of the list at 56, down 2%. Charter came in at 57, down 7%. TWC at 58 was up 7% following investments to improve speeds in New York and Los Angeles. Leading the pack were AT&T U-verse (69, up 6%) and Verizon FiOS (68, down 4%).
“Customers resent being locked into service contracts, and are not happy with what they see as unreliable service, slow broadband Internet speeds, and rising subscription prices,” ACSI says.