Cable operators swept J.D. Power and Associates' 2009 residential phone service survey for the third year running, with Cox Communications ranking highest in the East and West regions.
In the South region, Bright House Networks took top marks -- with Cox coming in second place -- while WideOpenWest took home the trophy in the North Central region.
Comcast, by contrast, registered below-average scores on the J.D. Power survey in all four regions. The survey measures customer satisfaction with both local and long-distance telephone service on five criteria: customer service; performance and reliability; cost of service; billing; and offerings and promotions.
For Cox, it's the seventh consecutive year of topping customer satisfaction in the West region, and the third in the East (previously the Northeast region, in 2006 and 2007). The research firm said Cox performed well in both regions specifically on customer service and performance and reliability.
"Through the study's findings, our customers have recognized Cox Digital Telephone service for its high performance and reliability, savings and convenience," Cox senior vice president of product marketing David Pugliese said in a statement. "In addition, our own research tells us that consumers associate Cox Digital Telephone as a key driver in saving customers money on their other services, like video and Internet."
Overall, according to the J.D. Power, customer satisfaction with residential telephone service has increased notably in 2009.
Across all regions the satisfaction average was 653 on a 1,000-point scale, up 18 points from 2008. Time spent on hold to resolve a customer's most recent problem or issue averaged 8.8 minutes, down from 9.5 minutes in 2008. And almost 70% of customers said they "probably" or "definitely " will recommend their service provider, compared with 64% last year.
"Competition in the industry is at an all-time high, as providers are offering a variety of technologies to vie for increasingly savvy customers," J.D. Power director of telecommunications Frank Perazzini said in a statement. "This has resulted in stronger product performance than in the recent past, which is supported by more efficient service -- making customers the big winners."
However, churn also increased in 2009, with customers who said they left their previous provider increasing to 10% from 9% in 2008.
In the East, Cox's overall score of 689 was followed by Cablevision Systems (688) and Time Warner Cable (676). Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Frontier each scored below-average for the region.
In the West, Cox's top rating of 684 was followed by Qwest Communications (657). The rest of the field fell below average, including Verizon, AT&T, Embarq, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Charter Communications.
In the South, Bright House's 719 score was tops, followed by Cox (681), Verizon (669), Embarq (660) and AT&T (656). Below average were Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Windstream Communications, CenturyTel and Charter.
WideOpenWest led the North Central region with 743, followed by Cincinnati Bell (700), TDS Telecom (693) and AT&T (660). Providers falling below the average in the region included Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and CenturyTel. Charter was in last place with 617.
J.D. Power's 2009 residential telephone customer-satisfaction study was fielded in January, April and July 2009 and is based on responses from more than 21,480 U.S. customers who receive local and long distance telephone service from one provider.