Satellite Leads in American Customer Satisfaction Index

Satellite customers are still happier with their service than cable, but the wired medium’s customer-service-satisfaction numbers are on the rise, driven by smaller operators.

The customer-satisfaction scores for most cable and satellite companies were up in the most recent (2008) American Customer Satisfaction Index, with satellite still leading the way.

DirecTV was up 1.5% to a 68, the highest score of any individual company measured, while Dish Network got the second-highest score at a 65, although that was down from a 67 the year before.

According to the index, produced by the University of Michigan, the increase in cable’s performance score from a 64 (up 3% from a 62 in 2007) was driven by smaller operators like Cablevision Systems and RCN, while the customer satisfaction scores dropped for Comcast, Charter Communications and Dish. The index goes to 100 and is based on the degree to which the customer is satisfied with his or her service.

According to the index, of the four largest cable operators surveyed, Cox had the highest score at a 63, unchanged from the year before. Next came Time Warner Cable at a 59, up 1.7% from a 58 the year before. Comcast was down 3.6% to a 54 to tie with Charter, which was down 1.8%.

“We are clearly disappointed with the ACSI results," Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said. "Earlier this year, we redoubled our efforts to improve the customer experience and have begun fundamentally changing the way we do business to improve customer satisfaction. We know it’s a little early for the results of those efforts to be reflected in a survey like ACSI, but we are committed to delivering a better customer experience.”

Talking about the numbers in a commentary accompanying the survey's release, Professor Claes Fornell wrote that Comcast's "rapid growth" may have contributed to the score as it continues to add subscribers, including through acquisitions of other companies in smaller markets.

Of the improving service of most cable operators, he said, "As is often the case, small is often better in terms of being able to provide good customer service.”

Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, which represents those smaller cable operators, definitely agreed.

"It doesn't surprise me," Polka said. "The thing that is unique about our members is that they live and work in their communities. What they have to focus on in addition to their services is their service. And now, in a competitive environment where you have platforms providing similar services, what separates them is their level of direct customer service.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.