Home-based business customers gave Cox Communications the nod as the best provider of data services, while Cablevision Systems was the clear No. 1 among small and midsize businesses, according to J.D. Power & Associates' 2011 survey of the category.
In the home-based segment, Cox scored 632 on a 1000-point scale, with strong performance on cost of service and performance and reliability factors. Right behind Cox was Cablevision's Optimum Business (631) and Verizon (624).
Cablevision topped the SMB segment with a score of 681, performing particularly well in five of the six factors measured in the survey: sales representatives/account executives; cost of service; performance and reliability; offerings and promotions; and customer service. Cox was second at 656 and Comcast came in third with 631.
In the large-enterprise business segment, Verizon ranked highest in customer satisfaction (with a score of 698) followed by AT&T (653), Time Warner Cable (643) and Comcast (640).
On the 2010 survey, the top scores were similar: Cablevision led the home-based business data segment and Cox was the winner of the SMB segment, as Verizon bested the large enterprise side.
In response to this year's J.D. Power results, Cox Business senior vice president Phil Meeks said, "In a competitive business telecommunications market, customers seek a provider they can trust, confirmed by the recent J.D. Power and Associates study. Cox Business was built on this principle and our local sales, engineering and support teams are focused on creating and maintaining relationships that effectively support the communication and business goals of customers."
According to J.D. Power, the greatest differences in satisfaction between customers who intend to switch and those who intend to stay with their current provider revolve around the "empathy and responsiveness" of account executives and customer-service representatives.
"As annual improvements in network performance continue, empathy-related attributes, such as concern for customers' needs, have materialized as elements that can make or break a service provider," J.D. Power director of telecommunications Frank Perazzini said.
J.D. Power also found that whether a customer uses electronic billing has a strong effect on overall carrier satisfaction. Satisfaction with the billing experience averages 715 (on a 1,000-point scale) among customers who said they use their provider's online-billing features, compared with only 643 points for those who don't.
Overall, according to the research firm, the industry average for both short- and long-duration outages declined significantly.
The average number of short-duration outages (lasting less than five minutes) experienced by customers during the past six months has decreased by more than 22%, to 4.6 incidents in 2011 compared with 5.9 in 2010. The average number of extended outages (more than five minutes) dropped more than 24% in the same period to 1.9 incidents in 2011, from 2.5 in 2010.
J.D. Power's 2011 U.S. Major Provider Business Telecommunications Study is based on responses from 5,928 business customers in the U.S., who were polled in November 2010 and February 2011.
Providers are ranked in three segments: home-based businesses (companies based in a residential location with one to five employees); small/midsize businesses (companies with two to 499 employees); and large enterprise businesses (companies with 500 or more employees).
The survey uses five factors to measure satisfaction across all three segments: performance and reliability; billing; cost of service; offerings and promotions; and customer service. A sixth factor -- sales representatives/account executives -- is included for the SMB and large enterprise businesses.