Comcast and Time Warner Cable — in the midst of a $45 billion proposed merger to create a cable colossus with 30 million subscribers — are stuck in the bottom of the barrel in terms of customer satisfaction, according to a new survey.
But it’s worth noting that the survey comes from the Consumers Union, which is actively lobbying against the proposed union of the U.S.’s No. 1 and No. 2 cable operators.
Comcast was 15th out of 17 pay-TV service providers for overall customer satisfaction, with an aggregate score of 58 out of 100, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center’s 2013 annual telecom survey, which was was released Tuesday. The MSO scored particularly low marks for value and customer support.
TW Cable ranked 16th overall for TV service with a score of 58 on the Consumer Reports survey, with low ratings for value, reliability and customer support. The only TV provider that fared worse was Mediacom Communications, a midsize MSO with 528,000 subscribers as of the end of 2013.
Comcast, asked for comment, pointed to its steady improvement on another large-scale customer service survey, from J.D. Power & Associates. Since 2010, Comcast has improved in more than any other provider in the industry during the same period on J.D. Power’s rankings, boosting overall TV satisfaction 92 points (on of 1000-point scale) and Internet satisfaction by 77 points. Still, Comcast had below-average scores in 2013 in all four regions for both services (with the exception of Internet service in J.D. Power’s north-central region).
“We know we still have work to do, but these stats show that our continued investments to transform the customer experience are having an impact and we are making progress,” a Comcast rep said.
TW Cable declined to comment.
The Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, claimed its survey is proof that the merger is a raw deal for consumers. “A merger combining these two huge companies would give Comcast even greater control over the cable and broadband Internet markets, leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and worse customer service for consumers,” Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel in Consumers Union’s D.C. office, said in a statement.
But customers of all pay-TV and broadband customers tend to be unhappy about their rising monthly bills. The Consumer Reports study found “almost universally low ratings” for value across all services, especially for TV and Internet. Americans spend an average of $154 per month ($1,848 per year) on home communications services — which is more than households spend on electricity or clothing, according to a November 2013 report by Mintel Group.
Two smaller cable operators, WideOpenWest and Armstrong Cable, topped the Consumer Reports survey for TV service with scores of 74. Verizon FiOS was third with 73, and Dish Network and DirecTV tied with 70. AT&T U-verse 68.
Comcast and TW Cable also turned in below-average rankings on broadband Internet service, with scores of 62 and 63 respectively, putting them in the bottom third among ISPs surveyed. Cable operator WideOpenWest topped the broadband rankings with a score of 76, with Verizon FiOS coming in at 74.
Pols and other consumer activists who oppose the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger — which must be approved by the FCC and Department of Justice — have previously cited the companies’ legacy of poor customer service as a reason to block the deal.
Big cable operators have long suffered lower customer-sat scores relative to satellite and newer telco TV competitors.
Major MSOs aren’t oblivious to their chronic sub-par reputation, and execs claim they’re highly focused on improving their standing among subscribers. Comcast chief Brian Roberts recently said the operator is striving to achieve a level of customer service akin to Uber, the car-hailing Internet service.
As evidence of better customer service, Comcast says it has reduced service windows to 1-2 hours, down from 4-8 hours previously, and has a 97% on-time visit rate at customer locations. The MSO also now offers weekend appointments. In addition, since 2010, repeat visits to resolve customer issues are down 20%, according to Comcast.
The Consumer Reports study is based on a survey of 81,848 of the magazine’s readers.