Business Wireline Satisfaction: AT&T Surges, Verizon, Cablecos Fight for Supremacy

customer satisfaction

The battle for telco supremacy continues to be – predictably – a two-horse race.

AT&T and Verizon were first and second in each category for J.D. Power’s latest study, although CenturyLink and Cox have made major year-over-year headway.

In its new Business Customer Wireline Satisfaction survey, J.D. Power ranks six main players in three categories: large enterprises (500 or more employees), small and medium-size businesses (20-499 employees) and very small businesses (1-19 employees). The criteria included performance, cost, communications, sales representatives, billing and customer service.

Ian Greenblatt, J.D. Power’s technology, media and telecom practice lead, says one of the major differentiators for this study was how the wireline providers communicate with their customers.

“This year’s study found that’s the simplest way to increase levels of customer satisfaction across the board, especially during outages and subsequent restoration times,” Greenblatt said.

J.D. Power surveyed nearly 3,300 customers during April and May of this year.

Scroll through the gallery below to see a breakdown of the rankings in the three categories as well as how AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Cox, Spectrum and Verizon all performed.

We did a gallery on the same survey last year.

Large Enterprises

This year's survey for businesses of more than 500 employees saw a shake-up on the leader board. While Verizon took top honors in 2017 with 821, AT&T was in a league of its own this time around. 

CenturyLink, Comcast and Spectrum sparred for third place and tied. But it was a big jump for Spectrum, which improved two places and 11 points year over year.
Small and Medium-Size Businesses

Verizon continues to dominate the SMB category, although its customer-satisfaction level stayed essentially the same, dropping from 816 last year to 810 this year. Meantime, AT&T gained major ground in second place.

CenturyLink lagged in fifth place for a consecutive year, while Cox impressively improved 17 points to leapfrog Comcast and Spectrum.
Very Small Businesses

Verizon led this category last year, followed by Cox, but AT&T has leapfrogged both. Comcast and Spectrum made small improvements, while CenturyLink went from 674 to 712 – the biggest margin of change in the study.

The overall average satisfaction for very small businesses improved from 729 to 738, but it lags behind the much higher ratings for SMBs and enterprises.
**Editor's note: The countdown that follows is based on each company's SMB ranking, but we've included their ranking among enterprises and very small businesses as well.**
6. CenturyLink
  • SMB: 6th
  • Enterprise: 3rd
  • Very Small: 5th
The Louisiana-based provider was in last place in almost all of these categories last year, so this year's survey actually represents a huge improvement. It bettered its very-small-business score by 48 points, and although it's nowhere close to AT&T for large enterprises, it's hot on Verizon's tail.

That's great news for a company that is struggling mightily to preserve its reputation in the consumer space, after the state of Oregon launched a class-action lawsuit against CenturyLink.
5. Spectrum
  • SMB: 5th
  • Large Enterprise: 4th
  • Very Small: 5th
At least Spectrum (parent company Charter) led CenturyLink overall, but the year-over-year comparison paints a disappointing picture. More than two years after Charter merged with Time Warner Cable and Bright House, the combined entity doesn't seem to be making much of an impression on its business customers. The company dropped from third place to fifth in SMB rankings.

On the bright side, Spectrum jumped 11 points and one spot in the enterprise leader board.
4. Comcast
  • SMB: 4th
  • Large Enterprise: 5th
  • Very Small: 4th
The cable provider remained very consistent year-over-year in terms of customer satisfaction. It continues to be in a third-place logjam with CenturyLink and Spectrum for large enterprises, and it remains fourth for SMBs. Comcast made a major improvement from 2016 to 2017 after being in last place for enterprise and SMB in two years ago.
3. Cox
  • SMB: 3rd
  • Large Enterprise: N/A
  • Very Small: 3rd
Although the company isn't really attacking the enterprise sector, it's at the higher end of the pack for smaller businesses. Cox slipped from second to third for very small businesses, but a 17-point gain brought it to third for SMB satisfaction.

Cox agreed with Sprint earlier this year to let go of an ongoing patent lawsuit and partner to allow Sprint access to Cox's broadband infrastructure.
2. AT&T
  • SMB: 2nd
  • Large Enterprise: 1st
  • Very Small: 1st
We listed AT&T as second because of its SMB ranking, but this was an overall success for the telecommunications giant. Its 29-point lead over the closest large enterprise competitor is impressive, and it nearly halved Verizon's lead among SMBs.

AT&T also remains competitive in the Ethernet market. It overtook Colt for second place in the latest global Ethernet provider rankings.
1. Verizon
  • SMB: 1st
  • Large Enterprise: 2nd
  • Very Small: 2nd
Verizon reclaimed its SMB crown from AT&T, but dropped in the rankings for the other two categories. Expect this two-horse race between the two service providers to continue for the foreseeable future.

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