ASC Survey: Customer Satisfaction with Subscription TV Improves, ISPs Debut at Bottom of Index

The annual Information Sector report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that customers are happier with telecommunication services and technologies than they were a year ago.

“Customer satisfaction with the Information sector is improving, but none of these industries score higher than the national average,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and chairman, in a statement. “Limited competition combined with high consumer expectations for information services are a formula for relatively weak buyer satisfaction, despite the gains.”

Subscription television service ends a three-year run of stagnating customer satisfaction with a 3.0 percent gain to an ACSI benchmark of 68. While the boost is good news for cable, satellite and fiber-optic television providers, the industry remains the third worst of the 43 industries covered in the ACSI.

Among TV service providers, those offering service via fiber optics or satellite earn the best marks for customer satisfaction. On average, fiber-optic/satellite service receives an ACSI score of 72 compared with 63 for cable service. Verizon (FiOS) stays in first place at 73 (-1 percent), with DIRECTV at 72 and AT&T (U-verse) at 71, close behind after strong gains of 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively. DISH Network rounds out the above-average group with a near-steady benchmark of 70 (+1 percent).

While most cable providers do better in 2013, all remain below the national ACSI average. Cox Communications leads at 65 (+3 percent), but is chased by a much-improved Charter Communications at 64 (+8 percent) and a modestly stronger Comcast at 63 (+3 percent). Time Warner Cable backslides, dropping 5 percent to an industry low of 60.

“While nearly 90 percent of households have some form of TV subscription, the industry is facing small, but growing, competition from Internet video streaming,” said ACSI director David VanAmburg, in a statement. “The industry’s pattern of yearly price increases, coupled with sporadic reliability, keeps customer satisfaction low relative to other household services and vulnerable to new technologies that enter the market.”

Subscription TV customers give picture quality strong ratings for both HD and basic resolution, but find call center service to be lacking compared with most other industries.

The ACSI’s coverage of telecommunications expands with inaugural measures for the Internet service provider (ISP) industry, a change that ensures comprehensive assessment of customer satisfaction with the video, voice and data services available to U.S. household consumers. ISPs debut with a customer satisfaction benchmark of 65, the lowest score among 43 ACSI industries.

“High monthly bills combined with problems across a broad spectrum of customer experience benchmarks-such as service reliability, data transfer speed and video-streaming quality-leaves customers less than satisfied with their ISP service,” said Fornell. “But in a market even less competitive than subscription TV, there is little incentive for companies to improve.”

Only Verizon’s FiOS and the aggregate of all other smaller ISPs break out of the 60s with identical ACSI scores of 71. Cox beats the average at 68, followed by AT&T U-verse and Charter at 65. The low end belongs to CenturyLink at 64, Time Warner Cable at 63 and Comcast at 62.