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Marianne Paskowski

Cable Can’t Shed Darth Vader Image

October 31, 2006 4:46 PM

After spending millions to improve customer service, cable still has a long way to go. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal’s special report on customer service cable TV, satellite TV and newspapers scored at the bottom of the heap, with consumers ranking all three equally with only 63 percent levels of satisfaction. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business conducted the survey to rank customer satisfaction scores among different industries. There are some shockers here.

Perhaps 63 percent in 2006 is an improvement for cable, an industry which has always been singled out for shoddy customer service. Back in the early '90s, TCI's then president John Malone truly earned the moniker "Darth Vader." Years later there was the Jim Carey flick "The Cable Guy," which took potshots at cable's shoddy customer service. And then there was the recent infamous story about a real Comcast installer who fell asleep on the job, only to be recorded by the upset customer who posted the video online.

Even the airline industry, and this is the shocker, ranked higher than cable, satellite and newspapers, albeit by not much, scoring a 65 percent level of satisfaction. Given everyone’s near universal hate of the commercial air carriers that have consistently cut service and upped prices, a 63 percent satsfaction for cable, satellite and newspapers is downright awful.


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Comments (2)

I’m actually a little surprised that the percentage was as high as 63%. That means that people are satisfied with cable’s customer service over half of the time. With as many unhappy cable customer service experiences as I see floating around the Internet I would have guessed the number would be lass than 50%. I don’t know whether to think the number is higher than expected because people tend to only report bad experiences, which skew perception toward the negative, or because people’s expectations of the level of service are so low that they can be satisfied with barely decent treatment. It’s probably a combination of the two, but I fear that an increased satisfaction rate could lead to complacency in customer service – which will only end up hurting both the industry and the consumers in the long run. Competition seems to be what could spur this industry into a better customer service model, lead by over builders like WOW!, the Dish providers and IPTV from the Telco's all of whom are gradually chinking away at the cable industry’s armor. Their best move at this point is to be proactive in ensuring customer loyalty. More channels and increased options aren’t going to cut it – the competition can offer those too. Customer service is going to be the differentiating factor and will likely mean the difference between the cable industry retaining loyal customers and losing them to the new kids on the block.

Marianne Paskowski:

Well, a couple of things. Remember in the research I cited the dish providers fared the same as cable ops, and oddly enough newspapers. Personally, I'm more annoyed with my newspaper delivery service (and why I now read so much online) than my cable provider. Competition from dish providers and now the telcos has upped the ante for cable. MSOs are spending millions to upgrade their call centers and returning to grassroots levels, closer to the customer. And that's the key. No CSR in Tulsa is going to care if she gets the call from me saying that my cable is out during a critical political race news report, or if the Boston Red Sox game was interrupted because of lack of service. But a CSR is the Boston DMI would get it in a New York minute. That's why the service is improving. Personally, I can wait until Verizon enters my 'hood. Thanks for your comments, which are spot-on. Reminds me of an experience I had the other day when a cable net PR person said me ratings were up 35 percent for a particular daypart compared to last year, but wouldn't give me the rating. I said 35 percent up from 0 is great I guess. I get your point.

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