Verizon's customers are a happy lot. AT&T's? Not so much, still.
At least those are the findings of a survey (PDF) released last week by ChangeWave Research that found Verizon tops among cell phone users for customer satisfaction and fewer dropped calls.
Of the 4,040 wireless subscribers questioned for the survey in March, 49 percent of Verizon's customers said they were very satisfied with their service. In second place was Sprint Nextel with a 35 percent satisfaction rate. T-Mobile and AT&T both tied for last with only 23 percent of their customers who said there were very satisfied.
Verizon also came out top in the fewest number of dropped calls, with its customers reporting only 1.5 percent of their calls lost over the prior three months. The dropped call rates were 2.4 percent for Sprint and 2.8 percent for T-Mobile, while AT&T was at the bottom with customers reporting 4.5 percent of their calls being lost. The dropped call rates marked Verizon's best since September 2008 and AT&T's worst over the same time frame.
Customer loyalty, specifically churn rate, was another factor measured in the survey. But here Verizon and AT&T both fared well, with 7 percent of Verizon customers saying they plan to switch to another carrier over the next three months, and 8 percent of AT&T customers saying the same. The churn rate was 10 percent for Sprint and 14 percent for T-Mobile at the bottom.
Though AT&T's other grades were poor, ChangeWave believes its churn rate is relatively low thanks to its deal with Apple as the only U.S. supplier of the iPhone. In total, only 8 percent of all the people surveyed said they plan to switch carriers, the lowest level ever recorded by ChangeWave.
For those customers who do plan to switch, where will they go? The popularity of the Motorola Droid led to a big jump in the number of people who said they'd switch to Verizon, according to ChangeWave's December survey results. The number has gone down 4 percentage points since, according to the most recent results, but is still the highest of the four carriers, with 27 percent of people who plan to switch reporting they'll jump to Verizon.
Among other subscribers looking for a change, 18 percent said they're switching to AT&T. That was the second-highest rank in the current survey but 3 percentage points lower for AT&T than in the December survey and 19 points lower than it was in the September 2008 survey.
Only 7 percent of those switching say they'll move to Sprint, while 5 percent indicated a leap to T-Mobile, however, those numbers do show an improvement over the last several quarters. In the case of Sprint, ChangeWave believes the boost is due to the carrier's new 4G wireless plan and its lower prices but is uncertain whether or not this trend will continue.
Finally, how might a non-AT&T iPhone shake up the cellular landscape? The news would certainly be good for Apple.
Among Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile subscribers in general, 49 percent said they'd be very or somewhat likely to buy an iPhone if their carrier offered it. But among specific carriers, 53 percent of Verizon customers said they'd be very or somewhat likely to buy the iPhone, 44 percent of Sprint customers said the same, and 39 percent of T-Mobile customers would likely jump to an iPhone.
But with Verizon typically the most rumored carrier that would get an iPhone if and when AT&T's exclusive contract ends, ChangeWave sees a huge demand for it among Verizon customers and believes such a move could have a "profound and likely transformational impact on the industry."