Telco Challenges Cox Reliability

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Embarq, a competitive local-telephone company that provides bundled services, has rolled the dice on a multimedia advertising campaign, dinging the reliability of Cox Communications' telephone service in Las Vegas.

Targeted at residential customers, the print, radio and outdoor advertising campaign is based on research commissioned by Embarq from Keynote Competitive Research, which examines telephone companies and creates service benchmarks for voice quality and call completion, among other standards.

Officials with Embarq said the ad campaign, with the tagline “Don't Get Cabled,” is limited to its Nevada market, but could be used elsewhere. Overland, Kan.-based Embarq — a local-exchange carrier spun off from Sprint Nextel last year, following their merger — provides local- and long-distance telephone service, high-speed Internet access and wireless service and resells EchoStar Communications's Dish Network satellite-TV service.

Keynote's January 2007 report on voice services, which studied products by Verizon Communications, Vonage Holdings and digital phone services by Time Warner Cable in New York and Comcast in San Francisco, among other providers, indicates that Internet Protocol telephony services complete calls 96.9% of the time. According to the researcher, that rate is lower than conventional telephone providers.

For the Las Vegas campaign, Embarq media-relations manager Stephanie Meisse said that San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote placed calls during November and December 2006 from various locations around Las Vegas.

Embarq asserts that the report data it received from Keynote shows that Embarq's call completion rate was better than that of Cox. The study defines call completion as “successfully making a connection to the called number or receiving call audio on the first attempt.”

Announcing the advertising strategy, Embarq vice president of consumer marketing Mark Kenyon issued the following statement: “People tend to take home phone reliability for granted; this study suggests they shouldn't.”

Multichannel News asked to talk to Kenyon about the methodology of the study and the precise results. Through Meisse, Kenyon said the press release on the ad campaign would stand as the company's statement.

For its part, Cox has not responded publicly in Las Vegas to Embarq's campaign. Jill Ullman, public affairs director for Cox, notes that Embarq has only publicized its assertions, not details of the study, such as the number of calls made and the actual response rates.

Cox's phone product has received the J.D. Power & Associates highest honor for customer satisfaction for the western region four years in a row, she noted. The methodology of that research has been made public on that researcher's Web site, she noted.

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