The report rated
the nations largest Internet Service Providers based on responses from
4,173 online households.
Seven sweeping factors were used to determine the results, including cost
and billing, speed and availability, customer care and technical support,
as well as content and services provided.
AT&T WorldNet service received strong performance across all categories,
including the two factors nearest and dearest to consumers hearts speed
and price. The rating is a big turnaround from 1997 when the AT&T WorldNet
network choked on its e-mail, 1998 when it experienced brownouts, and 1999
when it blamed another ISP for service outages.
AT&T WorldNet has apparently made good on its promise to increase network
capacity. But its efforts have produced only moderate gains in terms of
subscribers. AT&T WorldNet reported it had one million customers in 1997,
so its added roughly 500,000 users over the past three years to currently
provide Internet access to more than 1.5 million users.
EarthLink, Inc. placed a close
second in overall customer satisfaction. According to the report EarthLink
performs above industry average in most factors, with
particular strengths in customer care and technical support.
Kirk Parsons, J.D. Power and Associates director of telecommunications said
the report indicates what issues ISPs need to address in order to keep
their customers happy.
“To stay competitive in the U.S. Internet industry, companies must offer a
consistent level of service across all drivers of customer satisfaction,”
Parsons said. “Both AT&T WorldNet and EarthLink clearly meet this
MSN finished above the industry average
for overall consumer satisfaction, just after EarthLink. America Online, Inc., AOL
subsidiary CompuServe and Prodigy posted customer satisfaction
ratings below the industry average. SBC
recently took an 85 percent
ownership stake in Prodigy
The research firm’s customer query among the nation’s six largest fee-based
ISPs accounts for more than one-half of the residential dial-up users in
U.S. The remaining subscribers surveyed comprise a mishmash of small
national providers, regional and local telephone companies and cable
According to Parsons, smaller service providers are threatening the
market-leading positions of the six-largest fee-based providers because
they account for 52 percent of new household subscriptions over the past
year. Parsons attributes part of the growth of small providers to consumer
demand for high-speed services.
“It is clear that the next battleground among the national and regional
ISPs is to attract new customers to their high-speed service,” Parsons said.
The study also identified big differences in customer satisfaction between
high-speed access and traditional dial-up users. High-speed service
subscribers are significantly more satisfied overall with their Internet
service than are dial-up users. However, not all high-speed connections
perform equally when it comes to satisfying customers.
Specifically, the report holds that cable-modems users expressed higher
satisfaction levels overall than either DSL or ISDN subscribers. The
advantage of cable modems is primarily due to receiving high marks in
content and e-mail ser
vices, while DSL households reported weaknesses in
technical support and e-mail services.
- Other highlights from the study include:
- On average, subscribers report having used their ISP for two years and
spend about 15-hours online each week. More than 93 percent of subscribers
report sending/receiving e-mail on a daily basis. Other daily activities
included 66 percent of the respondents who said they surfed the Internet,
while 32 percent said they used the Net daily it for instant messaging.
- Eighty five percent of ISP subscribers say they have made at least one
purchase online, with 40 percent indicating they make at least one purchase
- Due to the increased number of search engines available to consumers,
the preference for a particular search engine fell from 56 percent to 42
percent in the past year. Among those users who do have a preference, Yahoo! continues to receive the most
mentions at 69 percent, followed by Alta Vista with 28 percent, and Excite with 27 percent.
- Approximately 14 percent of Internet users indicate a strong intent to
switch ISPs in the next 12 months. An additional 22 percent say they might
consider a switch at some point. Seventy-Nine percent said connection speed
is the reason why they might switch providers.