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May 20, 2013

Consumer Satisfaction - Pay TV Steadily Improves, ISPs Place Bottom

Although remaining near the bottom of the 43 industries covered in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, the pay TV industry ended 3 years of no improvement in customer satisfaction scores, with a 3% YOY gain. Only airlines and the newly added ISP industry ranked less satisfying than subscription TV’s score of 68
 
Like last year, fiber and satellite-based service providers performed better than cable, receiving an ACSI score of 72 on average vs 63 for cable. Verizon FiOS stayed on top of the pay TV category with a score of 73, followed closely by DirecTV (72) and AT&T U-Verse (71), both of which saw strong gains (6% and 4%, respectively). DISH completed the above-average group with a score of 70, nearly flat from the previous year, followed by “All Others,” a category that includes many indie ops. Among the major cable operators, Cox led at 65 (+3%), followed by a much-improved Charter (+8%). Comcast, which scored 63, saw solid improvement (+3%). Time Warner Cable came last, dropping 5% from the last year to a 60.
 
The bright spot is picture quality, with customers giving strong ratings for both HD and basic resolution. Picture quality is where the TV industry excels, David VanAmburg, managing dir of the ACSI, said in an interview. That’s partly because managing the quality of a technology product is easier than managing a service experience, he said. An example is the TV and video manufacturing industry, which ranked the highest in this year’s index with a score of 86. The pay TV industry’s relative low consumer satisfaction is also due to rate increases and reliability issues, VanAmburg said, adding that the industry is also facing “small, but growing, competition” from OTT players. The ACSI, a private MI-based firm, surveys some 80K Americans annually on their satisfaction with products and services they have consumed.
 
The ISP industry debuted in the survey this year with the lowest customer satisfaction score among all industries—a mere 65. High monthly bills combined with problems like service reliability, speed and video-streaming quality are to blame, VanAmburg said. Another reason is that the ISP market is even less competitive than subscription TV so companies have little incentive to improve, he said. In addition, customer satisfaction with ISP Websites is well below average at 70. At 62, call center satisfaction for ISPs is well below the ACSI average for all call center experiences (74) and is by far the lowest score among telecom industries. Verizon FiOS and the aggregate of all other smaller ISPs led with identical ACSI scores of 71, followed by Cox (68), AT&T U-Verse and Charter (both 65). Time Warner Cable and Comcast were at the low end, scoring 63 and 62, respectively. Fiber providers seemed to be doing better than cable. Price might have played a role, VanAmburg said. Relatively new to the market, fiber providers have been offering many promotions, at least in the initial phase, he said. ACSI plans to add Google Fiber to the rank once it reaches critical mass.
 
Other interesting bits from this year’s index: Subscription-TV subs consider billing statements, remote controls, on-screen menus and program guides relatively easy to understand and use. Websites and call centers, however, have room for improvement. While satisfaction with pay TV call centers is the highest among telecom industries, it’s below the ACSI aggregate score (70 vs 74).
 







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