Cable Customer Service Still Stinks

Trader Joe's could teach the cable industry a thing or two about customer service.

In a new report out by the customer research firm Tempkin Group, cable companies took four out of the bottom five rankings for customer service satisfaction. Television services fared worse than Internet services, with TV offerings from Charter Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., and Cablevision Systems Corp. scoring at the very bottom of the Tempkin report.

Conversely, grocery chains, retailers, and fast-food joints averaged the highest scores across the industries profiled, with USAA (insurance carrier and bank), Ace Hardware, Chick-fil-A, and Trader Joe's among the top 10 companies ranked.

Clearly, cable providers still have a major image problem as far as customer satisfaction is concerned. Even when compared solely to satellite and telecom competitors, the largest cable operators tend to get poor marks for service delivery. In the last J.D. Power and Associates study of US pay-TV providers, the top MSOs consistently ranked at the lower end of the satisfaction scale across geographic regions.

While there's no quick fix for cable's customer service problem, operators are hoping they can improve performance over time with the help of big-data. The call center analytics firm Nexidia Inc. says it now processes 70,000-plus hours a day of customer service calls from some of the largest cable companies in the country. Nexidia turns that audio into data, which in turn is analyzed so that operators can optimize sales campaigns and customer service. The company says it has 50 to 60 percent of the cable market in its customer list. (See: Cable Embraces Big Data.)

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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sam masud 8/26/2013 | 10:52:03 AM
Unnecessary poll Doesn't take a poll to know that cable customer service sucks--because anybody who has cable already knows that.
mendyk 8/23/2013 | 4:41:24 PM
Odd choice? In its ongoing battle with CBS in the New York area, Time Warner Cable is now offering its subscribers a limited number of free over-the-air antennas. There are lots of caveats to this -- need for a digital box to accept the signal being one -- but isn't this a bit of a reverse Trojan horse move?
Phil_Britt 8/22/2013 | 11:20:45 PM
Cable Customer Service Lack of service is something that cable customers have almost come to expect. I just had a digital box replaced, but the technician didn't check quality of signal. No it's another week until the device (TV tuner in desktop) has service.

When I had changed to a competing provider a few years ago, service was worse. Provider didn't care where you wanted cable to enter home, the technician was going to bring it in at closest point, even though running a little extra cable to bring it in at another point would be more aesthetically pleasing. There were other issues as well, hence the switch back.

Others have similar issues. Reminds me of the Lily Tomlin skit from the pre-AT&T breakup days: "Lost service, we don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company."

Cable is feeling that way today, but the lack of service, combined with loss of programming in battles between cable providers and broadcasters, like the current Time Warner Cable-CBS dispute will likely push more and more consumers to "cut the cord."

kc1sp 8/22/2013 | 1:25:03 PM
Re: Consumer Service Reboot Required One of my pet peeves is when I call about a problem I get an "up sale" on a program or additional service. I want my problem fixed before I even consider buying anything else.
albreznick 8/22/2013 | 12:22:08 PM
Re: Consumer Service Reboot Required True. And customer service also won't get any better till cable and telco execs start thinking like their own customers and see what it's like to be on the other end of the phone. Just like doctors need to learn things from a patient's perspective. So simple to see, yet so hard to do.
TeleWRTRLiz 8/22/2013 | 12:11:57 PM
Re: Consumer Service Reboot Required Changes won't happen until service providers (and most companies, actually) start thinking about CEM as the customer's experience over a period of time with multiple engagements rather than just one phone call.
mendyk 8/22/2013 | 12:03:22 PM
Re: Consumer Service Reboot Required Companies that default to processes (IVR, big data, inward-focused metrics) rather than acting first to solve problems will not win any customer satisfaction contests. An obvious statement, but one that is ignored by most big businesses (not just telecom).
Sarah Thomas 8/22/2013 | 11:40:59 AM
Re: Consumer Service Reboot Required Carol, my thoughts exactly. Plus, the reps always make you repeat everything you just entered in the automatic system. It's counterproductive. I'm always amazed when my TV service provider doesn't know they are also my wireless provider. A good place to start would be to get the full picture. It'd help with customer service, but also marketing and upsell opportunities. It's a win-win for them.
Sarah Thomas 8/22/2013 | 11:38:16 AM
Re: Oh, the Humanity Agreed that selling a service is much different than a product. You're probably already disgruntled when you call in to your cable company's contact center because something isn't working. Then, it's not the people are rude or bad at their jobs, they just don't have any visibility into your entire customer profile or power to change much. They stick to the script, and that's frustrating. 

Re Trader Joes, sometimes they are too friendly. It's none of your business what my plans are for the three bottles of wine and gummy bears!! Customer service should be friendly, but not your friend...
Carol Wilson 8/22/2013 | 11:10:30 AM
Consumer Service Reboot Required I'd agree with Mendyk that interactive voice response systems are consumers' primary complaint with cable, and the fact they are designed to prevent most callers from ever wasting a human being's time. But often once you get a human being, your problems are just beginning. 

Cable CSRs have little visibility beyond the billing records and even less ability to address complex issues. Embracing Big Data is a great idea but unless the front line is empowered to act and do so swiftly and with a smile, it's all going to be a waste of time and money. 
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