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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Liz Greenberg 11/26/2013 | 4:31:37 PM
Let me buy what I want It seems to me that part of the problem on the residential side is that you really don't have a choice in what you are forced to buy.  If you want HD and sports you will be purchasing about 150 other channels that you don't even care about for the small price of at least $100 per month.  So then when service isn't perfect, you are really upset as you feel like you are being ripped off to begin with.  So to me, letting the subscriber choose what they want and allowing them to pay for it would be a start.
MordyK 11/26/2013 | 4:26:10 PM
Re: Some improvement It's essentially monitored by a hybrid of our state PUC's and the FCC. They dont have the federal and state separation we have, so they can apply a uniform national policy.
albreznick 11/26/2013 | 4:12:56 PM
Re: Some improvement Interesting model, MordyK. Who do you see policing it? The FCC? How does that work in France? 
MordyK 11/26/2013 | 3:13:20 PM
Re: Some improvement Correct me if i'm wrong, but thats a deployment methodology not a business model. meaning its how you would serve more customers cost effetively over existing copper, not how you would actually sell the service.
brookseven 11/26/2013 | 3:05:35 PM
Re: Some improvement I would say that a better US model would be Project Pronto.


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.
albreznick 11/26/2013 | 1:10:58 PM
Re: Some improvement So how would that open access mandate work?
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.
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?
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.
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