The University of Michigan’s 2019-2020 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report brought both good and bad news for US telecom operators.

The good news: many operators are “stepping up their game” by bringing better service to their customers, resulting in improved satisfaction scores compared to a year ago. The bad news: telecoms operators still remain at the bottom of the pack compared to almost every other industry.

More satisfaction in three out of five telecom categories

The annual ACSI, launched in 1994, is based on interviews with 500,000 customers to gauge customer satisfaction across 400 companies in 46 industries. This year’s telecommunications-focused report, released in June, revealed that three of five telecom categories surveyed (subscription TV service providers, Internet service providers, and video-on-demand service providers) showed significant improvements in customer satisfaction.

Within these three categories, 65% of companies saw year-to-year improvements, led by Comcast’s Xfinity, which posted the strongest year-to-year improvement.

Video streaming service providers saw their popularity remain essentially the same year-to-year. However, they remained the most popular category by a wide margin, and substantially more popular than traditional subscription TV.

The survey points to the growing trend towards customers ditching traditional pay TV bundles and hints that this group could see an increase in popularity in next year’s survey as a host of new streaming services such as WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBC Universal’s Peacock, and short-form video brand Quibi hit the market in 2020.

Some services still lag behind

While the general trend of improving popularity is clearly good news for many telecoms operators, some perspective is in order. This year’s report hastens to point out that with the exception of video streaming and the early days of fixed-line phone service, telecom operators have historically been “the bottom feeders” of the index, often among the lowest scoring of its 400-plus firms.

Despite improvement, this year is no exception, as fixed-line telephone service, video-on-demand service, Internet service providers, and subscription television service ranked at the very bottom of the index.

In fairness, it’s probably not a fair fight to try to compete against the industry at the very top of the customer satisfaction list – breweries.

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