Survey Finds VOIP Satisfaction, Despite Some Disconnect

With voice over IP consumer usage poised to become a mass market, existing users are fairly satisfied with their service, according to a new survey released on May 31 by SupportSoft.

Sixty one percent of the 100 VOIP users subscribing to a cable-based service surveyed said that they are satisfied with their service, despite the finding that 34 percent of them had to have a technician come out within 90 days of the initial service installation because of a problem, and that 16 percent had to have a technician come out two or more times due to service problems.

Why the disconnect? “Early adopters tend to be more tolerant of working out glitches,” theorized Marc Itzkowitz, director of product marketing and management at SupportSoft, a real time service management provider in Redwood City, Calif.

The survey—which included 100 cable subscribers using VOIP and another 167 using a specialized VOIP service from providers such as Skype and Vonage or DSL or satellite providers—found that 57 percent of the hand-set based VOIP users, such as those using Vonage, expressed satisfaction with their service, while 48 percent of the PC-based VOIP users working with a service such as Skype expressed satisfaction.

The survey also found that cable VOIP subscribers are nearly twice as confident in the reliability of their VOIP service as those using specialized services focused specifically on VOIP delivery.

There are a couple of reasons for that difference, said Boyd Peterson, senior vice president of consumer research at the Yankee Group in Boston.

“The customers with video, data and voice service are much more valuable to that cable operator, and so [the cable operator is] more interested in providing highly supported services,” he said.

At the same time, a VOIP service such as that from Skype or Vonage is “just an application, so the expectation for quality is lower for those service providers. Customers know the ability to get support will be lower. It’s like a cell phone. It’s not quite as good as a land line, but the cost is so much better, it’s worth it,” said Peterson.

Yankee Group’s forecast for the total number of VOIP usage by year’s end is 8.4 million.

With VOIP-only services such as those from Skype or Vonage, where the service provider doesn’t control the physical connection to the subscriber, servicing customers with problems “depends on the kindness of strangers,” added Itzkowitz.

The service providers in that case “are at the mercy of the high speed data line” provider,” he said.

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