New Research Points Way to European Broadband Profitability / U.S. Study Underlines the High Cost of Low Rated Customer Service

London (ots) - Americans continue to ditch dial-up for high-speed Internet access but the States' service providers are racing to provide the customer service quality required to keep pace with subscriber demand, according to a newly released study of over 550 U.S. residential broadband subscribers. Sponsored by SupportSoft, Inc.

(NASDAQ: SPRT) and conducted by Zanthus Research, an independent market research firm, the study reveals that nearly 7 in 10 broadband subscribers have called for technical support during the past 12 months, and 40% surveyed called more than once. With worldwide cable modem sales expected to double by 2007(1) and DSL subscriber bases forecast to grow from 11- 200% by country yearly(2) outside the U.S., European service providers are taking notice of what they can expect ahead, as broadband consumer adoption accelerates.

Europe service providers stand to gain by studying the business economics experienced by their U.S. peers. For example, a typical broadband service provider in the States serving 1.8 million subscribers would have had phone conversations with 1.2 million of them during 2002 at the average cost of US$13 per call -- resulting in more than US$15 million in service costs to the provider annually. However, the typical broadband customer is calling more often than that -- an average of 1.9 times a year. With 18% of customers calling twice and 21% calling three times, the cost for phone support to the service provider can skyrocket to nearly US$25 million, annually.

Escalating these costs further, when a phone call doesn't solve the problem, dispatching a service truck to a customer's residence can add an average cost of US$150 per truck roll. This helps explain why technical support has become a prime target for automation among high-speed data providers as a way to cut costs.

"Broadband service providers are under intense pressure to cut operational costs. Reducing their customer support burden is an important way to realize immediate and long-term savings," said David Hawley, senior analyst for the Yankee Group. "Operational costs are only one half of the equation, though. Providing consistent, high-quality customer service is key to building customer loyalty and lasting competitive differentiation. The trick is to strike the balance between efficient and effective customer service that meets corporate strategy."

Additional findings from this first annual high speed Internet support quality benchmark survey, which examines the quality of customer service experienced by broadband subscribers, include:

-- Cable subscribers are more satisfied with the quality of support they receive than their DSL counterparts. Twenty percent of all DSL subscribers report being dissatisfied, compared to 14% of cable customers.

-- Just 5 problems account for the majority of both phone calls and online support searches: no Internet access, inability to send/receive email, password problems, slow connections and repeatedly dropped connections.

-- Over 68% of broadband subscribers seek technical support by phone but 48% say they would prefer to use online chat, email or the provider's online support portal.

"Broadband service providers in both the U.S. and Europe are rapidly adapting to the support needs of their subscribers with new tools and techniques, including self-service options that provide people with more control and choice in fixing their own problems," said Bruce Mowery, vice president of marketing for SupportSoft. "Industry leaders recognize that creating a great customer experience is a universal need no matter what country you may live in. Service automation is helping drive increased subscriber loyalty and adoption of add-on services worldwide, as well as assisting high speed data providers gain business advantage through reduced operational costs."

SupportSoft is a leading provider of service automation software for broadband providers in the U.S., counting 7 of the top 9 high-speed data providers among its customers, which represents 75% of the North American broadband subscriber market. Additionally, European broadband leaders, including Belgacom, TeliaSonera and UPC Chello, also use SupportSoft solutions in multiple languages.

For more information about SupportSoft, visit www.supportsoft.com or call UK -- +44 (1) 895-876455.

About SupportSoft

SupportSoft (NASDAQ: SPRT) is a leading provider of service and support automation and endpoint management software for corporate enterprises and broadband service providers worldwide. SupportSoft's patented software platform allows businesses to automate and personalize the support they provide to their customers, partners and employees, helping them reduce costs, increase revenues and drive user satisfaction. Global 2000 companies using SupportSoft's comprehensive family of software solutions include enterprises like Procter & Gamble, Clorox, GE, Cisco Systems, Bank of America, NEC, BT and Schlumberger, broadband providers like Comcast, BellSouth and Cox Communications, OEMs and System Integrators like IBM, Sony, Siebel Systems and CSC. SupportSoft has offices and customers located throughout the world.

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including statements relating to expected growth in DSL subscribers and cable modem sales, adoption of new tools and techniques and the resulting expected improved profitability of service providers. These forward- looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to the technical challenges for service providers using these new tools and techniques, if from SupportSoft, the rapid pace of technological change, the impact of international conflict and continued economic downturns in either domestic or foreign markets, and the resulting changes in the amount of technology spending by customers and other risks which are more fully set forth in the risks factors detailed from time to time in our SEC reports. Statements included in this release are based upon information known to SupportSoft as of the date of this release, and SupportSoft assumes no obligation to update information contained in this press release.

(1) Source, InStat/MDR

(2) Source, DSLForum ots Original Text Service: SupportSoft, Inc. Internet: