How low can they go? ISPs hit new depths in customer satisfaction

New survey confirms what most of us know: When it comes to pleasing consumers, ISPs scrape the bottom of the barrel

I must be a closet statistics geek because every time the American Customer Satisfaction Index releases its quarterly report, I get as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.

For me, St. Nick arrived yesterday, when the ACSI released its report on pay TV, wireless services, landlines, computer software, and Internet service providers.

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In fact, this was the first time ACSI has ever surveyed its pool of 70,000 consumers about broadband ISPs. The news is not pretty. Overall, ISPs garner a score of 65 -- making them the lowest-rated industry among the 43 the ACSI has surveyed over the last 19 years. ISPs rank lower than airlines, hospitals, insurance companies, and the U.S. Postal Service. Yes, they're that bad.

FiOS falls short

The top-rated ISP, Verizon's fiber-optic powered FiOS, scored a respectable 71 out of 100, but that still puts it below the averages for all but four industries. The worst, Comcast, registered a 62. Over the last three years, only half a dozen companies in any industry scored that low or lower (among them, Time Warner Cable, United Airlines, and Facebook).

ISPs get slammed for mediocre reliability, crappy video streaming, limited choices of plans, and lousy phone support. Is any of that surprising to anyone out there in Cringeville?

Per the report:

High monthly costs and problems with both reliability and speed are the main culprits. Add to that a landscape that is even less competitive than subscription TV service... and there is little incentive to improve service. Dissatisfied customers have a difficult time leaving their provider for an alternative supplier. Options such as Google Fiber may eventually force current ISP providers to step up their customer service. At present, however, Google's promise of super fast, reliable fiber-optic Internet service is still just a promise -- implemented for early testing in only a few locations.

In other words, your only option is to suck it up and pray for Google Fiber to come to your town.

The news for computer software isn't much better. Overall satisfaction slipped by about 1 point to 76. Interestingly, ACSI has just two players in this category: Microsoft and "others." Per the report:

The reception of Windows 8, which has been criticized by customers for its redesign of the user interface, does not appear to have seriously dampened customer satisfaction with Microsoft. But then again, the software maker's latest release has not helped satisfaction either.

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