Good cable companies
Mediocre quality, infuriating customer service, high prices: If you’re like most Americans, you hate your cable and Internet company (some more so than others) — and that’s only getting worse.
Data released Tuesday by the American Customer Service Index show that cable companies are one of the most hated industries in America. Indeed, while the average company scores in the high 70s on the index (out of 100), subscription-TV companies (these include traditional cable companies and fiber-optic and satellite cable companies) scored just 65 on the index. Only Internet companies (many of which also provide your cable service, so it’s sometimes impossible to differentiate) were worse, scoring just 63. It doesn’t stop there. Customer satisfaction with subscription-TV services fell 4.4% in the last year alone and with Internet companies it declined 3.1%.
The most hated cable company(2:35)
If you are like most Americans, you hate your cable and Internet company, and that’s only getting worse. MarketWatch's Catey Hill discusses why Americans are frustrated with their cable companies. Photo: Getty Images.
Part of the problem is the consistently rising prices. Consider this: The cost of subscription TV has been rising 6% per year on average — four times the rate of inflation — and all the while the quality still isn’t that great. “It’s consistently been that way, ” says ACSI managing director David VanAmburg. “It eats up a big chunk of the household budget…renters pay more for that than energy, ” he says. “Combine these high prices with issues of reliability and there’s a value for the money problem.”
Even if you do have a choice between TV and Internet companies, it likely isn’t a good one. Time Warner Cable gets the lowest marks among consumers, scoring a 56 on the index; and AT&T (U-verse) T, +0.22% and DirecTV the best marks, scoring a 69 on the index. But even those higher rated companies are still below average across industries. “We’re not satisfied with these results and are working every day to deliver a better customer experience, ” says Eric Mangan, a spokesperson for Time Warner Cable. “We’ve introduced one-hour appointment windows, extended our TWC TV app for live TV and On Demand to more consumer devices, begun delivering dramatically faster Internet speeds and provided our Internet customers with access to more than 250, 000 WiFi hotspots — and we are committed to additional customer experience improvements this year.”
And even more upsetting to consumers may be that every major cable company saw a drop in their already-low consumer satisfaction scores compared with last year. Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS VZ, +0.63% saw the largest drops (7%); Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse saw the smallest drops (3%).
The problem, of course, is that for many consumers it’s hard to switch cable companies, says VanAmburg. Some consumers only have a single option for a cable company in their area. Others want certain shows or other perks that they can’t get from the likes of Netflix NFLX, +0.89% or Amazon AMZN, +0.35% , so they are unwilling to cut the cord. Either way, it’s not exactly easy to walk away from cable. And yet, in spite of the difficulty in switching, many still do. A survey of 12, 000 consumers last year by Accenture found that cable and satellite providers are among the industries that drive the most people to switch (only consumer goods retailers had more consumers switching — and they’re relatively easy to switch) with more than one in 10 consumers switching cable and satellite providers in 2013.
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AT&T's move to buy DirecTV could boost AT&T's financials but what will the impact on consumers be? MarketWatch's Quentin Fottrell joins the News Hub with Sara Murray. Photo: Getty Images.
That said, there are ways to get better customer service from your cable company, experts say. First, “self-serve as much as possible” by looking on the company’s website or online forums for help with the problem, says Sam Boonin, the vice president of Zendesk, a cloud-based customer service software firm. And Shep Hyken, author of “Amaze Every Customer Every Time, ” says that you may want to first try to determine if the problem is an area outage or something wrong with your particular cable (often, when you call, a recording will let you know that there is an area outage; if so, you can most often hang up and not have to deal with customer service as they are working on fixing it).
If you have to talk to someone, call on a Thursday (unless it’s urgent), as that’s the day that cable companies tend to have the fastest response times, says Boonin. Once you reach someone, calmly explain your problem; if the person on the phone can’t seem to help you, ask to be escalated to a supervisor, says Hyken. It may also be worth using social media to voice your problem if you don’t seem to be getting through to the cable company. And finally, Hyken says, it may be worth saying that you are seriously considering switching service to another company or cutting the cord (ask to speak to the retention department about this).
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