A consumer satisfaction study came out last week with numbers that neither surprise nor please anyone in the cable industry. The "Cable Television/Satellite Television" category came out at the bottom of the list, again. This is something we all have to be concerned about, all the time, and we need to do more to remedy. But there are added dimensions to this story that should not be overlooked. The American Consumer Satisfaction Index, research done by the University of Michigan Business School, is well known for looking at overall trends in consumer satisfaction. Cable customer satisfaction dropped several points about three years ago, at the same time the industry started its major infrastructure rebuild. Almost $85bln dollars later, those satisfaction numbers have stabilized, but have not gone back up – and we are still at the lowest end of the satisfaction index. What’s going on? Several things. First, as has been said here for more than 25 years, we need to do a better job. We can always cite the "reasons" – and there are plenty. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that we simply have to do better. That means better customer care, better communications, better response, and all the things that go with that. But in addition, there is a key element that seems to be missed in these figures. It is the same element that was missing from the JD Power polls. It is the fundamental question of what, exactly, is being measured. "Cable Television" is an extraordinarily broad term these days. I wonder whether the same satisfaction numbers would have been found if the question was "cable broadband modem service?" Actually, I think I know the answer. Studies already have shown there is a very high satisfaction level for cable-modem service. And then there is this strange, or not so strange, coincidence that in the same ACSI study the consumer satisfaction for "Broadcasting and TV Network News" dropped almost 3 points last quarter and more than 14 points since it was first measured. Well, as anyone who has been in the cable business for a long time knows, our customers often do not distinguish between the services we provide, and the programming delivered. Hence, when they are "mad" at CBS, for instance, they are unhappy with the cable operator. Fair? No. True? Yes. So how much does the current unhappiness with Broadcast and TV Network News have to do with the associated ratings of cable companies? I don’t know. What I do know is that this all relates to expectations, and that, in turn, relates to communications. The scores for cell phone service are going down, but they are still higher than cable’s. Why? I think part of the reason is that folks expect and anticipate that cell phone service will "drop out" from time to time. Hence, while for cable that would be an "outage," for cell phones it’s part of the expectation. This doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with outages or anything other than excellent service. It means we have to communicate with our customers on a realistic basis what we can and cannot do. We can’t, or at least shouldn’t be held accountable for Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl, or tilted political coverage perceived by various viewers, but I suspect we are. It’s something to think about. It has to do with perceptions and expectations as well as performance. We must improve on all fronts.

The Daily


Fiber Frenzy

GCI is nearing the completion of construction in Sand Point and King Cove, Alaska. The company expects on-the-ground work to be completed by the end of October. GCI will then put the finishing touches on

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