Light Reading

Small Firms Love Cable

Alan Breznick

Here's some good news for the major U.S. cable operators: They're scoring higher-than-ever customer satisfaction ratings from small firms (those that have fewer than 20 employees). But the good news ends there: The five biggest MSOs are not doing nearly as well with small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and large enterprises. Those are some of the conclusions of the latest business wireline satisfaction study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. While a top MSO scored highest in all three categories, the annual study generally found that cable providers scored better on a few measures compared with last year, but slid back on others. In the very small business segment, cable operators dominated even more than in 2012, grabbing all four of the top slots. Cox Communications led the way with an index score of 700, followed by Cablevision Systems' Optimum Business brand, Charter Communicationsand Comcast. All four came in higher than the segment average index score of 660. Of the four biggest telcos, only Verizon Communications did better than the average index score. AT&T ranked a mediocre sixth, while CenturyLink and Frontier Communications brought up the rear with scores of 631 and 625, respectively. The story was much different, though, in the SMB category, which covers firms with 20 to 499 employees. Although Cox led the way here again, scoring even higher on the index scale at 710, it was the only top MSO to beat the segment average of 670. That's in stark contrast to last year, when Optimum Business, Time Warner Cable and Comcast all joined Cox in the top ranks. Instead, Verizon and Frontier finished in second and third places, respectively. Comcast came in just below the segment average while Time Warner Cable ranked next to last, ahead only of CenturyLink. As the leader in both categories, Cox rated particularly well in performance and reliability and billing. Cox ranked second in the very small business segment last year, behind Optimum Business, and first among SMBs. Similar to the SMB segment, only one large MSO fared well in the enterprise rankings. Time Warner Cable ranked highest here with an index score of 705, earning plaudits for performance and reliability, billing, sales representatives and account executives, cost of service, and customer service. Verizon and CenturyLink captured second place and third place, respectively, also scoring above the segment average. Comcast came in slightly below the average score, finishing ahead of only AT&T, which ranked poorly in all three segments. Besides rating the top cable and telco providers in the three business services segments, the J.D. Power study also found that business wireline subscribers that bundle their data and voice services tend to be more satisfied customers. Commercial subscribers who bundled their services posted an average customer satisfaction index score of 668, as opposed to 660 for customers who bought just data services and 653 for voice-only customers. In addition, the study revealed that the desire to bundle is climbing among commercial customers. In the latest survey, 15 percent of business users cited the ability to bundle voice and data as their main reason for choosing their telecom provider, as opposed to just six percent a year earlier. Plus, bundled business customers expressed greater loyalty to their provider and indicated they are less likely to call with service complaints. — Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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