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Cable Business Services

Cable Can't Shake Poor Reputation

US cable operators may like to think that they have shaken their previously poor reputations for delivering good service, but it looks like they haven't done so yet -- judging from what you're telling us.

In our latest Light Reading community poll, readers chose cable's "poor reputation for service performance and reliability" as the single greatest challenge facing cable operators in the commercial services market today as they pursue mid-size and larger firms. With 335 votes cast as of Tuesday morning, that challenge easily topped all the other choices, including "lack of a national footprint to serve firms with multiple locations" and "not enough direct fiber lines to commercial locations."

Specifically, slightly more than a third of you, or nearly 34%, selected the poor reputation choice as cable's biggest commercial challenge. Slightly less than a quarter of you, or just over 23%, picked the lack of national footprint choice. And slightly less than one-seventh of you, or more than 13%, selected the "not enough fiber lines" option.

Only one other choice, "stronger competition from entrenched telco incumbents," scored in the double-digit percentages. The other three poll choices lagged behind in the single-digit percentages.

These findings gibe with other, more scientific polls of consumers that have been conducted in recent months. In one report published by the research firm Tempkin Group in August, cable companies took four of the five lowest rankings for customer service satisfaction. And, in the last J.D. Power and Associates study of US pay-TV providers, the top MSOs consistently ranked at the bottom end of the customer satisfaction scale. (See Cable Customer Service Still Stinks.)

Cable operators do fare much better in polls conducted among commercial users. In J.D. Powers' latest business wireline satisfaction study in June, for instance, cable operators dominated the top customer satisfaction rankings for very small companies (those with fewer than 20 employees). But they fell to the middle or bottom of the pack in the small-to-midsize-business (SMB) and large enterprise categories. (See Small Firms Love Cable.)

So cable operators still have their work cut out for them in improving their public image. That poor image clearly threatens to hamper them as they try to move upmarket in the commercial services space.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading


Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to The Future of Cable Business Services 2013, a Light Reading Live event that takes place Wednesday, December 4, 2013, at the Westin Times Square in New York City. Back by popular demand for the seventh straight year, this is a one-day conference that will examine the progress that cable operators are making in the roughly $140 billion US business telecom services market and the challenges they face in keeping up the momentum. For more information, or to register, click here .


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Sarah Thomas 11/26/2013 | 12:24:44 PM
residential v. enterprise I'm not surprised that business users rate their cable companies higher than residential users. It's probably because their company has paid for better service. In my office, the parent company -- I won't name names -- only pays for $200 per month service with no SLAs. So, it goes down about once a week, and Comcast doesn't care becuase they aren't paid to prioritize us. It might look like bad customer service, but it's really just all we signed up for. The other side of the office functions just fine, because their service is much more expensive and their SLA is much better. 
KBode 11/26/2013 | 12:37:15 PM
Some improvement There has been some improvement, but cable operators still refuse to compete on price. And some companies insist on taking steps backward in terms of spending money on improving customer service. Charter for example eliminated their entire social media customer support team that had, until that point, been putting a very human face on a company that had some of the lower customer satisfaction scores in the industry.

I honestly think in many markets it comes down to the fact that a monopoly or duopoly really doesn't HAVE to care. Where are those customers going to go?
alanbreznick 11/26/2013 | 12:54:22 PM
Re: Some improvement Good point, Karl. Usually only competition makes companies improve things like customer service. That's what been happening with cable cos. But they clearly have a long way to go.

I'm surprised by what Charter did with the social media team, especially since their efforts were working. Seems pretty shortsighted. Would be great toask Tom Rutledge about that move.   
alanbreznick 11/26/2013 | 12:55:31 PM
Re: residential v. enterprise Interesting comparison, Sarah. I think you're right. It comes down to the fact that companies, like people, only get what they pay for. Hope your office situation improves. 
MordyK 11/26/2013 | 12:56:25 PM
Re: Some improvement KBode, I couldn't offer a better justification for an open access network mandate for those receiving franchise monopolies, It would also solve the content problem issue TWC had with CBS.
Sarah Thomas 11/26/2013 | 1:01:55 PM
Re: Some improvement I was really surprised about Charter too. They did it to focus on more traditional means of customer service, like their call center. Ick. So short-sighted.

I also agree that it comes down to, they aren't yet forced to care. You'd think they would be with OTT competition and what not, but it still seems to be empy threats for the most part.
alanbreznick 11/26/2013 | 1:08:03 PM
Re: Some improvement How can we force them to care? Would govt. regulation make things better or worse?
KBode 11/26/2013 | 1:08:08 PM
Re: Some improvement I believe when Rutdledge came in there was a push simplification push to strip down to bare bones. They also at the time purged their broadband tier lineup so they only offered two options (a 30 Mbps and 100 Mbps offering).

I assume Rutledge wanted to strip down to bones before righting the ship. It's a shame the social networking team had to be part of that, though.

I noticed the person running their Twitter account last week wasn't sure how to use th "@" feature, so they were sending replies intended for one user to the entire feed.

Sometimes the little things matter in fighting poor consumer impressions. Stuff like this certainly doesn't change them.
albreznick 11/26/2013 | 1:10:58 PM
Re: Some improvement So how would that open access mandate work?
MordyK 11/26/2013 | 1:34:00 PM
Re: Some improvement It's essentially the now defunct UNEP/UNEL in telco, or the way energy is delivered in NY.

The networks are built and managed by a single party but every service provider pays an equal amount determined by the local PUC to access it, while the content and services sent over the network are provided by third party service providers. Under this scenario TWC would not have been negotiating with CBS (at least for the network access part) but multiple service providers in themarket would be fighting it out with CBS and some would choose to carry while some would choose not too carry.

This is effect the unbundling of the last mile from the actual service delivered over those pipes.

This is largely how it's done in France as well, so the model is largely proven.
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