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Cable Operators Outrank Telcos in Customer-Service Survey

Cable operators may feel like Rodney Dangerfield when it comes to multichannel video customer service. But a new report from J.D. Power and Associates found that cable companies ranked highest on customer satisfaction lists among local and long-distance telephone providers.

The study measured customer satisfaction with both local and long-distance phone service, and cable operators ranked highest in five out of six U.S. regions. In 2005, only Cox Communications Inc. led any of the regional customer-satisfaction rankings. Cox now ranks highest in three regions, while newcomers Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable each rank highest in one region. Verizon Communications Inc. was the sole traditional telephone company ranking highest in a region.

“While telephone service offered by cable companies is relatively new to the market, large numbers of customers are being lured to switch with enticing cost savings and highly attractive bundles of video, voice and data service,” J.D. Power executive director of telecommunications and technology research Steve Kirkeby said in a statement.

The latest study from J.D. Power found customers’ satisfaction with their telephone provider has declined over time. Overall, satisfaction index scores have dropped from 692 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2005 to 670 in 2006. Satisfaction has fallen in all six factor areas measured in the study, dropping most significantly in customer service, image and billing. Other areas measured are performance and reliability; cost of service; and offerings and promotions.

“Although cable companies entering new markets average satisfaction scores that are more than 30 index points higher than the industry as a whole — and despite nearly doubling their share to just under 10% of the telephone-service market — cable companies are not yet a large-enough force to propel overall satisfaction higher,” said Kirkeby. “Overall, satisfaction drops as the industry continues to struggle with consumer uncertainty caused by several large, well-publicized mergers and divestitures among the traditional phone companies. Changes such as these always take their toll on customer satisfaction.”

The study was based on responses from 12,196 customers nationwide who receive their local and long-distance telephone service from one provider. The study results by region were:

• Northeast Region: Cox ranked highest, receiving the highest ratings in the region in performance and reliability, billing, image, customer service, and offering and promotions.

• Mid-Atlantic Region: Verizon ranked highest, outperforming other carriers in billing, image, cost of service, and offerings and promotions.

• Southeast Region: Bright House Networks ranked highest, with top ratings in the region in customer service, billing and image.

• North Central Region: Time Warner Cable ranked highest, with the highest ratings in the billing and cost of service factors.

• Southwest Region: Cox ranked highest, with particularly high ratings for customer service, billing and image.

• West Region: Cox ranked highest in the region for a fourth consecutive year, receiving top ratings in all six factors.