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When it comes to customer service, there are some companies, like Chick-fil-A or Trader Joe’s, that go above and beyond and it shows in their American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scores, the country’s only national cross-industry measure of consumer approval.
Others, like traditional TV and internet service providers (ISPs), are not known for their customer satisfaction. In fact, last year both industries tied at the bottom of all ACSI rankings across 10 economic sectors and 46 key industries.
However, in 2020 several ISPs rebounded in a positive direction. Eight of the top 11 national providers increased their overall ACSI scores by anywhere from 1 to 5 points.
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Top 5 ISPs based on customer satisfaction
- Verizon Fios – 73/100
- AT&T – 68/100
- Optimum – 65/100
- Xfinity – 66/100
- Cox – 61/100
Internet service provider customer satisfaction rankings for 2020
ISPs overall received a score of 65 out of 100 as the industry standard benchmark for 2020, up three points from last year. Leading the pack was Verizon Fios service, earning a 73 out of 100 again for the second year in a row. AT&T internet was right behind with a score of 68 out of 100, a decrease of 1% over 2018.
Out of the 11 ISPs evaluated, plus a group of smaller internet service providers grouped together as “All Others,” eight saw a 2% to 8% increase in their overall customer satisfaction scores in 2020. Two providers, Verizon and Frontier, stayed the same while another two, AT&T and Suddenlink, saw their scores decrease from last year.
Xfinity, the largest cable internet provider in the U.S., according to the FCC, saw the greatest improvement in their customer satisfaction rating. They jumped from 61 out of 100 in 2019 to a 66 in 2020, a 8% increase.
How are internet service providers ranked?
The ACSI has been collecting data on ISPs since 2013 using more than 30 data points to evaluate the industry. Some of these key metrics include “customer expectations, customer perceptions about the value and quality of their actual experiences, customer complaints and customer retention.”
The ACSI conducts interviews annually with hundreds of customers on recent experiences with their internet service providers and specifically asks for their input on a set of critical elements that include:
- Reliable speed and service
- Data transfer speed
- Peak-hour performance
- Video streaming
- Variety of plans
- Email, data storage and internet security
- Understanding the bill
- Store/service center staff courtesy and helpfulness
- Store/service center transaction speed
- Quality of mobile app
- Reliability of mobile app
- Call center
Trends among internet service providers’ customer satisfaction
Using data going back to 2013, we can start to see some trends among ISPs. Since that time, the industry-standard benchmark has declined from 65 out of 100 in 2013 to a low of 62 in 2019. 2020 marks the first time in seven years that the overall benchmark has returned to its 2013 standard.
What’s interesting for 2020, is that for the internet service industry overall, providers didn’t see huge gains in any one particular category, but rather incremental increases across several key elements.
In fact, every single grading component saw an increase by one to three points overall, except for reliability of mobile app, which stayed the same.
“Mobile apps continue to be the best part of the ISP experience, earning scores of 79 for quality and 77 for reliability. In-person service does not lag mobile apps as much as it did a year ago. Staff courtesy bumps up to 76, while in-store transaction speed rises 3% to 75. Likewise, website satisfaction is moving in the right direction (+4% to 75),” the report states.
However, “internet service reliability, data speed, and peak-hour performance show much room for improvement (all 70), as does keeping outages to a minimum (69). While there is more variety in available service plans (+3 to 67), subscribers clearly want more choices.”
The ACSI introduced a benchmark this year that “measures key aspects of the in-home Wi-Fi experience for both customers who use equipment provided by their ISP and those who use third-party equipment that they have purchased.”
The overwhelming result? “Customers using third party equipment (routers and associated hardware such as extenders/boosters) are more satisfied than those using their ISP’s equipment.”
The future of customer satisfaction for internet service providers
While most providers made marginal improvements year-over-year, the industry as a whole has been struggling to improve — let alone even maintain — their customer satisfaction scores.
Mobile apps and websites appear to be helping the industry, but it’s clear that internet service providers need to make investments in customer satisfaction, especially in their call centers, and work on giving customers more choice in internet plan options.