AT&T Leads Customer Satisfaction Improvement

One of the recession’s positive effects has been to push tech firms to improve their customer service, a new study finds.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Americans’ satisfaction with products including cable, satellite and telco TV, wireless and wireline phone service, remained steady in 2010’s first quarter. That was good news for the operators as more consumers relied on in-home entertainment amid a weak economy – companies including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., DISH Network and DirecTV all reaped the benefits. Overall, Americans gave pay-TV their highest rankings in 10 years, up 5 percent, ACSI said, favoring newcomer telco providers* over satellite and cable rivals.

“Having enjoyed near-monopoly status in most areas for many years, cable companies had little incentive to provide quality services at a good price,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder, in a prepared statement. “Now that satellite and fiber-optic TV providers have created a competitive challenge to cable, the cable companies have started to step up customer service and realize some gains in customer satisfaction, but they still remain far behind both satellite and fiber-optics.”

Among landline service providers, meanwhile, AT&T saw a 6 percent surge, followed by Cox Communications, Verizon, CenturyLink and Comcast Corp. Among wireless carriers, T-Mobile tied with Verizon Wireless for the lead. AT&T got a 3 percent boost, likely because it has worked to alleviate the strains placed on its 3G network by the iPhone. Sprint Nextel Corp. made the most improvement, gaining 11 percent satisfaction among consumers, pushing it close to the industry average, ACSI said. That had to have marked a coup for Sprint, which has battled poor customer perception for several years.

“Following the weakening in customer satisfaction in the latter half of 2007 through late 2008, American businesses have responded to the recession by increasing or stabilizing customer satisfaction,” Fornell said. “Customer service has improved and buyer value for money is rising. The progress in customer satisfaction is also reflected in growing consumer demand and spending – a key for the economic recovery to be sustainable.”

*The article originally said satellite providers over cable and telco. We regret the error.

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