Powered by TMCnet
| More

Cable Technology Feature Article

May 19, 2009

Consumers Most Happy with Wireless, Survey Suggests

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Consumers arguably are most happy with wireless services, a bit less happy with wired communications and video services, a new customer satisfaction survey suggests.
Traditional local and long distance customer satisfaction scores are down one percent to 72, a year after reaching its highest score since 1999, say researchers at the University of Michigan who publish the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
AT&T declined five percent to 71, losing most of the ground it gained in 2008.  Cox Communications held its own at 74 to lead the category, while Qwest slipped three percent to 71.  Comcast’s digital voice service fell three percent to 67 to remain at the bottom.
Problems with bundling of services, customer service deficiencies, and a slower than expected rollouts of its U-verse television service are among the culprits, says Professor Claes Fornell, National Quality Research Center director. 
As the demarcation continues to blur among fixed-line telephone, cable, and Internet providers (at some point in the not too distant future customers can choose from among many different companies offering a combination of all these services), the increase in competition and consumer choice options should lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction, Fornell predicts.
Customer satisfaction with wireless telephone service, though, reached a new all-time high for the third consecutive year at 69. Verizon Wireless jumped three percent to 74 to continue its lead over the industry.
Sprint (News - Alert) Nextel made the biggest gain of any company this quarter, up 13 percent to 63, though some of the increase is likely to be due to many departing and not very satisfied customers, researchers note. Sprint Nextel (News - Alert) remains at the bottom of the industry in customer satisfaction, though.
A good part of this increase, however, is probably due to the fact that many dissatisfied customers have defected, University of Michigan researchers say. As Sprint lost its least satisfied customers, the somewhat higher average satisfaction among the remaining customers probably led to a higher overall ACSI score, Fornell says.
AT&T Mobility fell six percent to 67.  Paradoxically, its success with the iPhone (News - Alert) may have contributed to the declining customer satisfaction.  As the wireless carrier has attracted iPhone customers with more intensive data needs, the strain on the network has created complaints about slow and spotty performance.
Customer satisfaction with cable and satellite TV declined, falling two percent to 63, although some of the large companies improved, the survey suggests.
Satellite TV still leads the way, with DirecTV well above all measured companies, up four percent to 71. The other satellite provider, DISH Network continues its slide, falling two percent to 64.  Two years ago the satellite companies were tied at 67; now a seven-point gap separates them, researchers say.
Because satellite TV companies partner with telecommunications companies in order to offer additional service packages, such as voice and Internet, it is likely that the partner companies have an effect on the satisfaction their customers, says Farnell. 
DirecTV’s voice partner Verizon (News - Alert) is the ACSI leader in its industry, while DISH Network’s partner Sprint Nextel is at the opposite side of the scale.
Cox Communications leads all cable TV providers for a sixth straight year and reaches an all-time high at 66, but Comcast made an even bigger leap, up nine percent to 59. Charter Communications is down six percent to 51, a new record low for any company in the 15-year history of ACSI, researchers note.

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi