Customer service is a hallmark of business, and it's one of the biggest factors when it comes to customer satisfaction. It's surprising, then, that cable companies continue to be profitable while their users say that they provide poor customer service. Many reasons help explain why these companies can provide poor customer service and still increase profits, though this may not be the case for much longer.
The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) surveys the customers of hundreds of large companies, including cable companies, to gauge their happiness with their services. The latest results of this survey show that cable TV providers have some of the lowest scores—the list of the bottom twelve companies includes three of the largest cable providers. Some of the complaints that put them in the ratings dungeon were poor customer service and fee hikes.
Cox Communications, the largest provider of cable television services in the US, was given the eleventh-lowest rating due in large part to rising prices. The company was also given poor marks for giving huge discounts to new customers for a limited time but raising prices substantially after the trial period. Charter Communications earned the seventh-lowest score and was dinged by the ACSI for being a perennially poor performer, despite the fact that its score was five points higher than on the previous survey. Time Warner Cable was given the dubious honor of having the lowest of all the cable provider scores and the second-lowest overall score. Time Warner was called out for having consistently poor customer service from its call centers.
Another reason customers complain about poor customer service is that the companies currently have very little incentive to change. The vast majority of nonsatellite cable TV service is provided by just a handful of companies because of lax merger rules due in part to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. As the companies got larger, competition decreased, leaving consumers no choice but to use these poorly rated companies unless they want to do without cable TV altogether. The cable providers should be careful, however, since networks such as ESPN are looking into the value of providing Web-based streaming subscription services in addition to cable TV programming. If enough networks decide to do this, dissatisfied customers may be tempted to cut the cable cord for good.
Since the market has little competition, many cable providers can continue to provide poor customer service while raking in profits. In the future, if individual networks such as ESPN decide to provide streaming services, customers may stop paying for cable. A mass exodus may be what it takes to finally get cable executives to pay attention and start providing better service to customers.
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