Your ISP's customer service: Just ok is the best you'll get; Many stink

AOL was the top Internet service provider when it came to customer service in 2008, according to a Forrester Research report. The rub: AOL's top rating based on Forrester's "customer experience index" translates into a "just ok" mark.

AOL was the top Internet service provider when it came to customer service in 2008, according to a Forrester Research report. The rub: AOL's top rating based on Forrester's "customer experience index" translates into a "just ok" mark. 

As a group, ISPs grade out with a "poor" rating of 59 percent based on Forrester's customer experience index. That tally makes ISPs 10th place out of the 12 industries the research firm examined. 

I sought out the Forrester report after AOL trumpeted its customer standing in a press release. I just had to see how AOL, which is trying to wind down its access business, managed to be the best house in a bad ISP neighborhood. 

In fact, AOL's 71 percent rating was the tops, AT&T and MSN were the only other ISPs that had "okay ratings. Three ISPs---Charter, Comcast and Road Runner---and "very poor" ratings. 

Given that state of affairs perhaps AOL could have rewritten its press release headline from:

AOL Tops the List Among Internet Service Providers in Customer Experience Online Survey

To:

AOL tops in customer service: We're less worse than our peers

To be fair, AOL had a good rating on usefulness with a score of 79 percent, but that tied AT&T's ranking. And AOL showed solid improvement too, but it's playing in a weak division.

In what could be quite an understatement, Forrester analyst Bruce Temkin writes:

ISPs aren’t enjoyable. The ISPs share a common trait — they don’t provide enjoyable experiences, earning scores ranging from “poor” to “very poor” in this category.

Based on overall scores ISPs were only above TV service providers and health insurance plans. 

And for more perspective: ISPs overall customer experience scores fell 3 percent from 2008 to 2007. That decline doesn't sound so bad until you consider banks and credit card providers (both ranked higher than ISPs) showed a 7 percent and 1 percent improvement in the same time frame. By the way, even investment firms during a market crash had customer experience index scores 10 percent higher than ISPs (69 percent to 59 percent). Airlines had a score of 65 percent and at last check folks weren't too thrilled with that industry either.

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