Are customers getting what they want this year?
Weve asked ISP business customers what is most important to them when choosing an ISP, and how well their primary providers are performing in 26 categories Click For Chart. The top-rated characteristics included network reliability, value for the price, network performance, customer service responsiveness, time to get service up and running, technical support and availability of broadband service.
Without exception, all criteria on our list received higher mean importance ratings this year than last year, reflecting business customers increasing addiction to the Internet. But all criteria are not created equal. Click For Chart First and foremost, the ISP customers we surveyed want their service to work. Not surprisingly, this characteristic has ranked first in importance since the survey began, and promises to remain on top. An impressive 85 percent of the customers surveyed rate network reliability as extremely important when choosing an ISP, while another 10 percent consider it somewhat important, resulting in a mean importance rating of 4.73 on our 5-point scale.
Next, customers want their moneys worth. Ninety-four percent of respondents describe value for price as extremely or somewhat important, for a mean rating of 4.57. Third, they want their ISPs network to perform well; network performance is extremely or somewhat important to 92 percent of respondents, for a mean rating of 4.55. And if something does go wrong, customers want a quick response - customer service responsiveness receives a mean score of 4.48, with 92 percent of respondents listing it as extremely or somewhat important when choosing an ISP.
In a virtual tie for fifth are speedy initial service installation and good technical support, both of which are extremely or somewhat important to 84 percent of respondents, and which receive mean importance ratings of 4.21 and 4.20, respectively. Broadband service availability is also considered very important when choosing an ISP, and its mean importance rating shot up from 3.88 last year to 4.14 this year, boding well for beleaguered broadband service providers.
At the top of the class in this all-important metric is UUnet, which received an A from its customers in the form of a mean satisfaction rating of 4.12 out of a possible perfect score of 5. Eighty percent of the UUnet customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat satisfied with network reliability.
AT&T WorldNets customers are similarly pleased with the reliability of their ISPs network. Like UUnet, 80 percent of AT&T WorldNets customers are also extremely or somewhat pleased with reliability, resulting in a second-place 4.08 mean satisfaction rating. A 3.98 satisfaction score shows Road Runners customers are next most satisfied with network reliability, followed by Southwestern Bell Internet Services with a score of 3.93. EarthLink, Cable & Wireless and BellSouth customers all give their ISPs a mean rating of 3.86, for a three-way tie for fifth position.
AOLs customers rank it at the bottom of the class, with a mean rating of 3.24. Thirty-two percent of AOL customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat dissatisfied with network reliability. PSINet customers mean rating of 3.32 shows that they also are none too pleased with the reliability of their ISPs network. Given PSINets financial woes and peering problems, this is no surprise.
Value For The Price
The EarthLink and AT&T WorldNet customers surveyed are happiest with value received for price paid. EarthLinks customers reward their ISP with the highest value for price mean satisfaction rating of 3.77, with AT&T WorldNet receiving a 3.76 rating. Twenty-eight percent of EarthLinks customers are extremely satisfied, and an additional 41 percent are somewhat satisfied with value for price. Of AT&T WorldNets customers, 19 percent are extremely satisfied and 52 percent are somewhat satisfied with value for price. Customers receiving @Home services through various carriers gave them a 3.75 rating, followed by Sprints 3.74 rating and Road Runners 3.68.
AOL is in the doghouse with the lowest rating of 3.03. Thirty-four percent of the AOL business customers surveyed describe themselves as extremely or somewhat dissatisfied with value for price. The explanation for this is no mystery: Just before customers completed our survey, AOL announced a 9 percent price increase.
WorldCom-owned UUnet receives top billing for network performance, with a mean satisfaction rating of 4.01. Eighty percent of UUnet customers surveyed describe themselves as extremely or somewhat satisfied with network performance. AOL Time Warners Road Runner - considered a consumer service provider by most - is perched in the No. 2 slot, below business behemoth UUnet, with a 3.93 satisfaction rating and 72 percent of its customers surveyed extremely or somewhat pleased with network performance. Since many of Road Runners customers have recent memories of dial-up connections, they may be easier to please in the network performance department than those long accustomed to faster connections.
BellSouth just edges out a triumvirate of Sprint, MCI WorldCom and Southwestern Bell Internet Services for the No. 3 slot with its 3.81 mean satisfaction rating for network performance. Sprint, MCI WorldCom and Southwestern Bell Internet Services each have a 3.80 rating.
Road Runners customers may be all the more pleased with good network performance if they matriculated from AOLs network, which receives the worst satisfaction scores: 3.06. Thirty-two percent of the AOL customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat dissatisfied with the performance of AOLs network.
Customer Service Responsiveness
Best marks for customer service responsiveness go to MCI WorldCom and EarthLink, with mean satisfaction ratings of 3.67 and 3.6, respectively. Sixty-six percent of MCI WorldComs customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat satisfied with customer service responsiveness, as are 65 percent of EarthLink customers. Also high on the list are UUnet at 3.56, Road Runner at 3.55 and RCN at 3.54.
Local exchange carriers receive the worst marks for customer service responsiveness. Pacific Bell Internet sits at the bottom of the heap with a mean customer service responsiveness rating of 3.04. Verizon Communications fares a hair better at 3.06, and XO Communications two hairs better at 3.09. Thirty-eight percent of Pacific Bell Internets customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat dissatisfied with the level of customer service responsiveness they receive, as are 35 percent of the Verizon Communications and 36 percent of XO Communications customers surveyed.
Time to Get Service Up And Running
Road Runners customers are most satisfied with the time taken to get their service up and running. Road Runners customers reward it with a mean rating of 4.14, compared with @Home services at 3.9; AT&T WorldNet at 3.86; EarthLink at 3.84; and RCN at 3.83. Pacific Bell Internet is left in the dust with a mean rating of 3.08, bested by a nose by fellow regional Bell Verizon Communications at 3.16.
UUnet takes away top honors for best technical support, with a mean rating of 3.82. Its followed by Southwestern Bell Internet Services at 3.71, MCI WorldCom at 3.7, Sprint and EarthLink at 3.65 each, and AT&T WorldNet at 3.64. Sixty-five percent of UUnet and EarthLink customers surveyed say they are extremely or somewhat satisfied with the technical support they receive, as are 64 percent of Sprint and 63 percent of Southwestern Bell Internet Services customers surveyed.
Pacific Bell Internet ranks last in satisfaction with technical support; it scored a mean rating of only 3.01, and 41 percent of its customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat dissatisfied with the technical support they receive. XO Communications customers gave it a mean satisfaction rating of 3.13 and a 37 percent dissatisfaction rate.
Availability Of Broadband Service
The Road Runner customers surveyed are happy with their broadband service, giving the company a mean satisfaction rating of 4.33. Next happiest are @Home customers, with a mean rating of 4.23, followed by Southwestern Bell Internet Services at 4.2, AT&T Broadband at 4.17 and Cable & Wireless at 4.11. Eighty-seven percent of Road Runner customers surveyed are extremely or somewhat satisfied with the availability of broadband service, as are 86 percent of @Home customers surveyed, 80 percent of Cable & Wireless customers and 78 percent of Southwestern Bell Internet Services customers surveyed.
AOL customers are the least content with the availability of broadband service, giving AOL a 2.83 rating. Twenty-seven percent of AOL customers surveyed are displeased with the lack of availability of broadband service. Given these numbers, AOL should be pushing hard for open access to cable networks to give business customers what they want. The giant ISP recently signed a DSL wholesale pact with Qwest Communications International.