Do the Big Companies Even Want to Get it Right?

020916-F-4728F-001The latest Consumer Reports rankings are out for telecom providers, and the results are much the same as in past years. There are many different groups that rate companies and we often hear of reports that put the cable companies at the bottom of all companies in terms of customer service.

But the Consumer Reports ranking is more comprehensive. It looks at a lot of factors such as the perceived value that customers see with the provide, reliability, speeds, and support both in the home and over the phone. And they compare all of the major telecom companies and don’t compare to other industries.

Not surprisingly, HughesNet and their satellite broadband ranks the lowest. I’ve never heard anybody talk nicely about their product since it’s slow, costly and also has a lot of latency and delays. Many people say it is barely better than dial-up. It will be interesting to see how satellite ranks now that Exede is in the market with a faster product. As I reported a few weeks ago, the issue with Exede is the low total data caps, but at least the 12 mbps download is a huge improvement.

Ranked next to satellite is MediaCom which always comes in dead last among cable and telcos. Ranked next at the bottom are the various DSL providers, with Frontier, Fairpoint, Windstream and AT&T DSL. For the most part the customers on these services have older DSL technology that is only delivering a few Mbps download speeds. There is faster DSL technology available today and better ways to deploy it by bringing the DSLAMs closer to customers, but the companies listed are for the most part not pumping much money into DSL. The exception is Frontier who has gotten a pile of federal subsidy money from the new USF fund to upgrade and expand its DSL footprint.

But right next to this old DSL technology is Comcast, followed closely by Verizon DSL and then Time Warner. Verizon barely even advertises that it has DSL anymore and it is a surprise to see it more favorable with customers than Comcast.

At the top of the list and doing the best job are the smaller cable companies and fiber providers. At the top of the list are WOW and Wave (Astound) followed by Verizon FiOS.

It just amazes me to see these large companies like Comcast and Time Warner do so poorly with their customer service. They have been at the bottom of these kinds of rankings for well over a decade now and it’s obvious that they are willing to live with giving poor service. When you look at the rankings and see that Comcast is viewed by customers to be doing a worse job than Verizon and CenturyLink DSL you just have to shake your head.

It’s very obvious that they don’t care to become better because by spending some money they could do much better. Doing customer service well is not some unreachable mountain of a task. Thousands of companies do it well. If WOW and Astound can do it well, so can Comcast and Time Warner. It’s a matter of investing in the right systems, the right training and the right management of the process. Being big is not an excuse for being crappy, and if it is a valid excuse, then this alone ought to stop the Comcast / Time Warner merger.

I would think that the management of these companies would hate seeing themselves at the bottom of these lists. But they obviously like profits more than they hate doing a poor job. And that is what I don’t get. These companies have lost millions of customers due to dissatisfaction with their service and their best growth strategy is to lure back customers in their existing markets by doing a better job.