Service Still Gives Headaches

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Although broadband has grown steadily, subscribers report plenty of periodic problems with their service, according to a new Harris Interactive survey conducted for Motive Communications Inc.

Half of the 2,115 respondents said they encountered some sort of problem with their broadband service and found it difficult to get the problem solved.

Many of those calls were related to self-installation, said Ben Geller, market segment manager for the support-software provider. Many subscribers needed help — and an eventual truck roll — to get the job done, he said.

"It surprised me that half of broadband customers still have some sort deficiency in the support model," Geller said. "It's a trust issue and branding issue. The consumers don't view the providers as guys that provide content services."

Although 75 percent of subscribers said they were satisfied with their broadband service, once early problems were solved, some 90 percent were reluctant to buy such new services as music, gaming or home networking from their current provider, the survey found.

That was despite the fact that 45 percent of subscribers expressed interest in music, gaming or home-networking services.

"There is somewhat of a trust issue they have to navigate around," Geller said.

Broadband providers have largely been able to deliver on the value proposition of always-on, fast speeds, said Geller, thus gaining penetration among early adopters. But throughout that period, he said, the customer-service experience has been mixed.

Providers should be "shifting their focus to launching programs that bolster customer satisfaction," he suggested.

Some 33 percent of broadband subscribers said it took several calls to get a problem solved, and 20 percent added that it took too long for providers to resolve problems. Another 7 percent said their problem was never resolved.

The average subscriber calls one to three times in the first 10 days of service, Geller said, and another four to six times over the course of the year.

The survey also found that 57 percent of dial-up subscribers cited cost as the main factor preventing them from upgrading to broadband. Another 24 percent said broadband wasn't available in their area.

Geller said about 65 percent of those surveyed were cable subscribers, 20 percent had digital subscriber line connections, with the remainder satellite or fixed-wireless subs.

Motive sells service-activation software and customer-support services to several major U.S. and European cable MSOs for high-speed access services. The company's software is designed to help operators detect and cut down on problems before they incur service calls, Geller said.

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