Cable Companies Make Strides in Customer Satisfaction Survey

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Satellite again took top honors in J.D. Power & Associates’ annual survey on customer satisfaction. But cable operators were the winners in two of the four U.S. regions.

Cox Communications was the winner in the West region and Bright House Networks took top customer care honors in the South. Those designations are significant, said Leitchman Research president Bruce Leitchman, because that means those operators have positioned themselves as a choice rather than a default decision when it comes to video providers.

“Customer satisfaction has always come down to choice,” Leitchman says. “The DBS firms have always scored higher than the cable companies because those folks felt they had control over who their video provider was going to be. Cable companies are coming out ahead of the phone companies with their phone services for the same reason. The fact that Bright House and Cox scored the highest on J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey tells me that those companies have positioned themselves as the consumer’s best choice.”

Respondents to J.D. Power’s annual customer satisfaction survey ranked DirecTV the best pay-TV company overall, receiving top honors in overall satisfaction; performance and reliability; cost of service; billing; image; offerings and promotions; and customer service.

Although DBS still has a significant lead over cable in overall customer satisfaction, cable continues to close the gap. The difference in satisfaction scores between cable and satellite is currently 50 index points on a 1,000-point scale — down from a 69-point gap in 2005.

Though cable is making headway when it comes to customer care, the survey showed that customers are less satisfied with pay-TV service overall. Satisfaction for cable and satellite providers has fallen 29 and 48 points, respectively, since 2005.

Rising rates could be part of the reason, Leitchman said. DBS firms have had to raise rates in recent years, something they have long chastised cable companies for. Cable’s rates are also rising now, he said.

J.D. Power executive director of telecommunications and technology research Steve Kirby suggested mergers tend to lower satisfaction scores until the dust settles and consumers know what to expect from their new service provider.

“During an acquisition, subscribers are likely to be more sensitive to how their carrier is going to impact the reliability of service and whether there will be any changes to the price structure or payment plan,” Kirby said in a statement.

DirecTV was ranked No. 1 in the East followed by Cox, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable.

Cox was the top pay-TV provider in the West region, followed by Dish and DirecTV.

Bright House Networks led the South region followed by DirecTV, Time Warner, Dish, Cable One, Cox and Insight Communications.

The north-central region was led by overbuilder WideOpenWest, followed by DirecTV, Dish and Time Warner.

Comcast, Adelphia, Charter Communications and Mediacom Communications scored below average across the board.

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