With Cox Communications rounding out the list, the bottom 10 companies in MSN Money's second annual Customer Service Hall of Shame include the three largest cable providers in the country.
In the 2008 MSN Money-Zogby International poll, Cox, the third-largest with 6.2 million customers, was ranked "poor" by 28.8% of respondents familiar with its customer service.
Susan Leepson, Cox's director of public relations, said the company was surprised by the results because it tends to fare well in customer-satisfaction surveys.
"We take customer service really seriously. It's something we pride ourselves on," Leepson said. "We take it very personally. We take the survey results very seriously."
When then-CEO Jim Robbins took over in 1985, he named customer service a priority, and it's a tradition that has continued, Leepson said.
"At that time cable companies were really reviled for poor customer service," she said. "He said, 'This is it. This is what's going to differentiate us.'"
In the late 1980s, Cox became one of the first companies to add fiber-optic lines to improve reliability and quality, Leepson said. It also led in creating standards for customer service, such as maximum call-wait and service-response times. The cable industry later adopted Cox's standards, Leepson said.
"We were investing in customer service when it wasn't even cool, before anyone else was," she said.
In recent years, the company has taken 13 first-place awards in national and regional awards for customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates, which cited Cox's reliability, savings and convenience, Leepson said.
Customer-service representatives receive 80 hours of training every year. Each month, the company conducts a survey with 2,500 customers who have contacted a representative within the previous three months.
In response to those surveys, Cox has started rolling out new diagnostic tools to troubleshoot equipment remotely.
"It's just another way that we are trying to be quicker in reacting to customers' needs and resolve issues as quickly and efficiently as possible," Leepson said.
In the MSN Money-Zogby poll, 26.7% of respondents familiar with Cox's customer service rated it "fair," 33.1% "good" and 11.4% "excellent."
Cox, formerly known as Cox Cable, became a privately held subsidiary of Cox Enterprises in 2004. It doesn't release its net earnings but said its 2007 gross revenue totaled $8.3 billion. It provides video, Internet and voice data, as well as bundled service packages, similar to Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
Published May 28, 2008