Internet service providers' customer experience rankings are abysmal. Can multi-billion-dollar investments in network access technologies and ultra-broadband infrastructure help?
It's big money but not a big gamble; customer ratings can only go up. Customer satisfaction with subscription television and Internet service providers tied for last place among 43 industries tracked by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Residents prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, the ACSI Telecommunications Report 2017 found.
Sometimes the Status Quo Is Okay
If there's any positive news in ACSI's annual survey, it's that satisfaction with Internet service remained flat (at 64). So did wireline phone service (at 70). Pay TV, on the other hand, saw satisfaction fall 1.5% (to 64), perhaps because of the likes of Netflix and Hulu.
Most, if not all, consumer measures find dissatisfaction among residential Internet users.
"When broken down, customers rank Internet as the line of service with lowest return on their investment. Customers also say Internet is the line of service with which they are least satisfied," wrote InMoment in its July 2017 report, "Customer Experience in the Telecom Industry," which polled more than 11,000 people.
In part, it's because Internet is so integral to today's communications, said Erich Dietz, vice president at InMoment, during a webinar this week. "Out of all [operator services], this is the line of service that is more like oxygen in the daily life of the consumer," he said. "There's a heightened state of awareness when something goes wrong."
Service providers face an uphill -- and perhaps unfair -- battle. Consumers often relegate their offerings to the same category as electricity, water or gas -- utilities that, generally, either work well or don't work at all, David VanAmburg, managing director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), told UBB2020. Communications services, already complex, only get more sophisticated as operators add offerings such as smart home and security, he said. But unmanaged expectations do not include providers' technological hurdles, and customers' increasing price-sensitivity damages any potential goodwill providers earn from enhanced offerings, VanAmburg noted.
"The issue becomes twofold: The expectation that households have of these services, which are rather high, and secondly, and in part what is driving user expectations as high as they are, is the kinds of prices households are paying for these kinds of services," he said. "The 'Do I feel like I'm getting what I'm paying for?' is not in line with expectations. My Internet connection, at times, craps out on me. My picture quality isn't 100% of the time perfect. That's where you get a lot of disconnect."
That's where new technologies enter the picture. With Gfast, XGS-PON, DOCSIS 3.1 and NG-PON2, coupled with the industry's focus on automation and predictive analytics, could quality improve and costs come down? We'll explore that in part two of our report on ultra-broadband and customer experience.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.