The satisfaction among business subscribers with their broadband services increased from last year, largely due to improvements in customer service, including improvements in network reliability.
In the home office category, Cablevision’s Optimum Online service topped the most recent customer satisfaction ratings in the latest the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Major Provider Business Telecommunications Study. Cox Communications excelled in the SMB segment, meanwhile, and Verizon was the best-regarded in the enterprise segment.
J.D. Power said the average number of short duration outages (those that last less than five minutes) experienced by customers during the past six months decreased by more than 16 percent, to 5.9 incidents in 2010 from 7.0 in 2009. The average number of extended outages (greater than five minutes) has dipped more than 11 percent in the same period, to 2.6 incidents in 2010 from 2.9 in 2009.
The firm said those were the biggest factors in the overall boost in customer satisfaction, increases that were particularly pronounced in the SOHO and SMB segments, where improvements in service reliability and quality were most dramatic.
The survey results merely underlined what service providers already know: they’re now competing on service quality and better customer service.
"While carriers will never be able to eliminate outages due to weather or natural disasters, reducing outages directly attributable to factors they can control may have a favorable impact on customer retention and the provider's bottom line," said Frank Perazzini, director of telecommunications at J.D. Power and Associates.
When it came to calling customer service, J.D. Power reported that 86 percent of customers say their issue was resolved in a timely manner in 2010, a 10-percentage-point gain from 76 percent in 2009. That gain was purchased by reversing a trend – circumventing automated response in favor of human response.
Perazzini said, "Business customers are bypassing interactive voice response systems in greater numbers and talking directly to support representatives (44 percent in 2010 vs. 38 percent in 2009). This is a double-edged sword that may adversely impact customer service economics, should this trend continue."
In the SOHO segment, Cablevision was followed by CenturyLink and Verizon. Qwest, Cox, and AT&T were grouped next as “better than most.” Time Warner Cable’s score put it in the “about average” category. Charter and Comcast got the low scores in the SOHO category.
In the SMB category, AT&T and Cablevision ranked behind Cox. Verizon got an “about average” score, and Comcast, Qwest, and Time Warner Cable were in the trailing group.
Slightly behind Verizon in the Enterprise category of customers was AT&T. Time Warner Cable tallied an “about average score,” and Comcast and Qwest were again in the trailing group.
The study measures customer satisfaction with providers of telecommunications data services, such as cable modem, DSL, T1, T3/DS3, Ethernet and frame relay. Providers are ranked in three segments: home-based businesses (companies based in a residential location with one to five employees); small/midsize businesses (companies with two to 499 employees); and large enterprise businesses (companies with 500 or more employees). Five factors are used to measure satisfaction across all three segments: performance and reliability; billing; cost of service; offerings and promotions; and customer service. A sixth factor-sales representatives/account executives-is included for small/midsize businesses and large enterprise businesses.