Dish Network and AT&T's U-verse TV service each saw their customer-service rankings drop 6% on the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index, while Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications once again brought up the rear among pay-TV providers tracked in the survey with a three-way tie for last place.
Verizon Communications' FiOS TV led the subscription-TV category on the ACSI survey for the second year in a row with a score of 72 out of 100, followed by DirecTV at 69.
Dish turned in a score of 67 -- down four points from 71 a year ago -- and AT&T's U-verse TV slipped to 68 (from 72). According to ACSI researchers, U-verse was hurt by an increase in customer complaints about picture quality, particularly on HD channels.
Cox Communications again was the highest-scoring cable provider (at 67, unchanged from last year). The other three cable operators measured on the ASCI survey each fell to 59: Comcast (-3%), Time Warner Cable (-3%) and Charter (-2%).
Overall, customer satisfaction with subscription TV service remained unchanged, with a score of 66 -- the highest rating since ASCI started tracking the sector in 2001. Last year, the ACSI average for pay-TV climbed 5% to the current level; the survey currently tracks the two telcos, the direct-broadcast satellite operators and the four biggest MSOs.
On fixed-line telephone service, AT&T's score also dropped, falling 5% to 71. That tied it with Verizon (down 3%).
Cox Communications declined 3% to 72 while Qwest (now part of CenturyLink) dropped two points to 73.
CenturyLink was unchanged on phone service at 70, and Comcast gained 1% to 69. (Time Warner Cable and Charter not included on the phone survey.) Overall customer satisfaction for phone services fell 2.7% to an overall ACSI score of 73.
According to Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI survey, the success of many operators' multiservice bundles may have been "both a blessing and a curse."
"A couple of years ago, a variety of bundling promotions boosted what people saw as value for money," Fornell said. "But now, as many of these promotions have ended, subscribers with bundled services are becoming less satisfied and more concerned about price."
The American Customer Satisfaction Index was founded at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. It was spun out as standalone research company ACSI LLC in 2009.