August 13, 2007 9:00 PM PDT

Customer satisfaction down among PC buyers

Customer satisfaction with the PC industry isn't necessarily bad, but it could be much better.

Overall, consumers rated their satisfaction with the maker of their PC 3 percent worse than last year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), the annual quality study conducted by the University of Michigan set for release Tuesday.

Apple is still the leader in terms of satisfaction with service and products, but its overall ranking dropped by five percentage points this year. Dell also lost five points on its score. Hewlett-Packard's HP brand showed a 1 percent improvement in a year, while its Compaq label is still rated the worst.

This survey is indicative of consumer satisfaction in general, which increased a mere 1 percent since the second quarter of 2006. Though American consumers' satisfaction has increased for the last nine quarters, that rate of satisfaction is slowing, said Claes Fornell, director of the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan, which conducted the study.

"It probably means for the economy at large that we will see a slowdown in consumer spending (next quarter) and consumer demand as well," he said. "We've seen a pretty strong correlation between customers and how satisfied they are and their future purchase behavior."

Admittedly, customer satisfaction is a hard thing to measure, he said. Fornell's group conducts the survey by asking 80,000 customers of the leading PC makers a series of questions related to how they view service quality, price, problems, future or repeat purchase plans, and satisfaction related to expectations.

Among PC vendors, Apple still leads the pack with a score of 79, and Compaq comes in at 73. On a scale of 100, any score in the 70s is respectable, and any rating above 74 means you're doing "quite well," Fornell said.

Apple's drop, even if it is ever so slight, is unusual since the company is usually ranked well on most aspects of the ACSI survey, Fornell said. He points to the Apple's growth as a possible cause, as well as the enormous expectations that come with being a quality leader.

"It's almost like what goes up must come down," he said. "They have done so well that they have increased their business by 400 percent in the last five years. That puts a certain strain on resources. With many more customers to service, it's not that service quality is going down, as much as the reliability of the products." Survey results refer only to Apple's computer products.

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said, "Customer satisfaction is very important to Apple. While we're pleased that we're still No. 1, we're going to try even harder."

Dell also dropped 5 percent after raising its ranking last year. Dell's problem is customers' perception of product reliability as well as service, Fornell said. As examples, just this year, both shipping delays of the much-anticipated XPS M1330 notebook and the New York Attorney General Office's decision to sue Dell for consumer fraud have made news.

Compaq, acquired by HP in 2002, is ranked 73, while the HP brand itself measures a 76, according to ACSI. Why the discrepancy? According to Fornell, Compaq was a "troubled" brand to begin with and HP hasn't been able to improve that perception yet. Despite its reputation from the pre-HP years, the brand has improved its rating with customers in the last two years, though slowly.

Consumer perception, however, tends to lag behind companies' attempts to fix those problems. For example, Dell maintains a blog called Direct2Dell that is used to communicate directly with customers, something very few PC companies are doing, noted John Spooner, analyst with TBRi, a market research firm.

"You don't see that from HP or Gateway...This is really new. Probably in the last year or so, Dell's done stuff like this, and it's a direct result of the troubles they've had in the past," Spooner said.

"The problem, frankly, (with) what we do and what ACSI does, is we measure customers' perception. Customer perception doesn't change very fast," he added. "You can do tremendous amounts of work and not move the needle very much. It's going to take a long time."

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18 comments

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So what was Dell's score?
Why mention the scores of Compaq, HP and Apple but not Dell's?
Posted by Jervis961 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tell Dell?
Too obscene in this forum to tell Dell's score.
Posted by benjiernmd (123 comments )
Link Flag
Dell's Score is 74
Down from 79 last year.
Posted by Bevo4138 (20 comments )
Link Flag
The data
Matrix is at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://theacsi.org/index.php?option=com_content&#38;task=view&#38;id=147&#38;Itemid=155&#38;i=Personal+Computers" target="_newWindow">http://theacsi.org/index.php?option=com_content&#38;task=view&#38;id=147&#38;Itemid=155&#38;i=Personal+Computers</a>
Posted by davebarnes (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's not the Data
That is a summary of the data. What I want to see are details of the sample size, population size and the resulting statistical margin of error. If the sample size is small, the margin of error will be large and the percentage changes reported could be within the margin of error effectively making the survey meaningless...
Posted by MadKiwi (153 comments )
Link Flag
In the background of my desktop.
In the background of my desktop are clouds.
These clouds are made of advanced collaberation tools interlinked relative to some work i was doing that i want others to add to(interlinked projects).
I haven't added much to my project but others have(boxes on walls called cloud sweepers and central servers) and also some of the software stems have updated to their new versions(sleepwalking).
So anyway i looked at the project today and found that some of the pictures taken on safri needed to be edited and sorted through so i attached a note to the project(hinges).
And then i thaught i'd cruise thourgh some information clouds relative to the work i was doing, after that i just loaded up on a new game and thaught i'd play, it was offered to me amoungst the data clouds(A freak node).
The year being 2017 and me now just finishing my sentence for hacking through all the fire balls and ice cubes protecting a main research hub without getting detected quite a few times, i am now jumping for joy bacause i get my first holographic station that will alow me to interface with the main system batter.

If you want me to be more achdemic and project myself further forward in time please ask?
Or maybe you want everthing now that you had yesterday and are cheesed off with dreamers.

This is your moment to shine fellow consumers.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apples and PC's
Interestingly enough, Apple is the only brand where the OS literally should reflect on the opinion of the hardware (since Apple represents both), and apparently it's got the best going for it.

As for PC's, I'm willing to wager that --since its hardware and Apple's hardware are basically the same now-- much of the dissatisfaction probably has to do with two things: The way the OEM handles Windows, and/or the disconnect between OS maker and OEM in design and execution.

I wonder if these guys will ever break down Linux+PC and Windows+PC satisfaction stats?

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
with your assessment except that this is not new: " the OEM
handles Windows, and/or the disconnect between OS maker and
OEM in design and execution."

That disconnect has always been a Mac advantage for the same
reason you point out - Apple engineers both the OS and the
hardware design and they are more tightly integrated.

I too would like to see Linux-PC data.
That would be interesting!
How about it News.com? Give it a go.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Link Flag
This is not really new news
Dell, HP/Compaq, Sony, Toshiba are notoriously terrible in the customer support realm. Not only do they read from scripts, they do not listen, customers have extended wait times to get through and their resolution is rarely sufficient.
The hardware leaves a lot to be desired. For a new machine to experience consistent incompatibilities, failures, low levels of performance is reflective of how far the companies go to exact profit at the expense of their customer. No longer companies that are proud of quality and customer care - they have no one to blame but themselves.
Apple has always had issues - the issues are becoming more prevalent with the increased name recognition. It is not due to the changeover to Intel processors nor is it due to the O/S. Apple has had hardware and compatibility issues sinces their inception. It was not as pronounced as fewer customers owned Apple products compared to PCs. If Apple had been a solid machine in the beginning - we would be an Apple dominated society rather than a PC dominated society.
Posted by Dolphie1 (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Solid Machine?
Windows dominance has nothing to do with "the fact" that Apple didn't build a solid machine in the beginning.
Posted by TheMusicMan12 (10 comments )
Link Flag
Here's How To Turn It Around
1) American Customer Support - People are tired of Taksheel Channarayapatra, also known as "Bob" - who speaks something resembling English, when they call in for customer support. It is very interesting how it is often the case that John Smith answers the sales calls, but Taksheel Channarayapatra does customer support and flips through the troubleshooting manual.

2) Choice of operating systems - Windows XP, Vista, Linux Flavor du Jour

3) No annoying trial crapware

3) Paying more for a higher performance computer, that does exactly the same thing and to the same level as the previous computer but with a different and "improved" OS a la Vista.

4) Start selling performance and quality components and minimizing the "discount" aspect of computers.

5) I would be more inclined to buy computer stuff developed and built/assembled in the US.
Posted by DecliningUSDollar (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's a very good start
Although I would argue that the support be regionalized (not every customer speaks english either) You should be able to talk to someone who natively speaks your native language, regardless of where you are. If a company is determined to have one central call center, it should quite logically be in the U.S., because that is where you will find the greatest diversity of language and therefore tech support capability.

No. 2 on my list would be adhere to (and participate in the establishment of) standards, especially software standards. The disconnect between PC and OS maker IS hurting the PC Industry, and the biggest deviator from standards is M$. Thier deviations usually means huge security holes, and I am sick of patching software. I mean, come on, software has no moving parts, it does not wear out, it either was written correctly, or it wasn't and after a decade of this, incompetence, although maybe the cause, is no excuse. I know over a dozen computer languages, and I repeat, no excuse!

As a note, the Apple platforms have been very reliable and durable, but the very thing that makes them so, makes them less ubiquitous. Tight control over OS, driver and software structure creates a solid platform, but without the multitude of options and programs for all kinds of things outside of the computer's box.

End distributors must also not alter the existing OEM Software setup, adding stuff is OK, but don't reimage the system. Currently there are several out there that are re-loading their own stuff, without the OEM drivers required for all the hardware installed (specifically built-in Cams, and other OEM specific devices, mostly in notebooks) are getting lots of complaints. This degrades the product quality perception, when it is no fault of the OEM.

I too, will pay a little extra for Made in the USA!
Posted by chash360 (394 comments )
Link Flag
Who's gonna pay for this?
The reason why support was sent overseas is that, despite all the whining and complaining about it, people simply aren't willing to pay for the support. Give customers two identical PCs, one that costs $500 with support in India and one that costs $550 with support in the US and 9 times out of 10 customers will take the cheaper option without even asking. They might ***** and moan about support, but the next time they buy a new PC they'll still make the same decision.

Also, customer support in the US generally stinks, that's half the reason why it was moved off-shore to begin with. Few people want to work in call centers here because they are crappy jobs with poor pay. The turnover rate among employees in through the roof and the level of experience among technicians is usually extremely low. Again it comes down to a question of cost, do you want to buy that PC for $550 with low quality support in the US or $600 with better quality support in the US.

You seem to indicate that you want to pay more for stuff build and assembled in the US. In that case, what's stopping you? Buy a Dell XPS system, or an Alienware system. Or one of the other "premium" PC brands. Assembled in the US and support is handled in North American call centers. These sorts of niche products do exist for that 1 in 10 customer who IS willing to pay more for their product.
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Link Flag
Little Old Ladies.
Heres an easy wat to make the world better, disable tap-to-click on laptops with finger pads. at least out of the box.

I had the sad experience of helping a long tem customer set up internet DUN over the telephone.

Every time she typed, she would hit the pad and launch another piece of crapware.

After an hour or two i told her to return it to the store, her mis-tapping was mis-diagnosed by me as a flaky motherboard.

The following morning she called again, and, being somewhat more alert, figured out the cause of the problem.

We are such a small company we can't afford BOB in india to answer our support calls.
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I feel your pain
Did ya hear the one about "too dumb to use a computer..."
Hey, what can ya do.
She was a paying customer right?

One thing about user satisfaction is, it's a lucrative business
$upporting them. Right IT departments? How much time fixing
vs innovating your system?

Maybe it's a plot by Bill Gates to create incomprehensible
machines that will keep us going back for "upgrades", like Vista.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Link Flag
PC Support Sorely Lacking
Through the years of owning a computer, I have finally gotten fed up with tech support - specifically in regard to our Alienware desktop. We paid for 3 year on-site support... within the first week there was a bad problem that turned out to be a mother board, but it took close to month of phone calls to diagnose it over the phone to get a tech to come replace it. Now it is down again - again a mother board plus other problems. We had to diagnose it over the phone again instead of getting a tech, then send it back (what about on-site do you ask??) to them for diagnosis and repair. One thing that was to be replaced was a broken video card... it was returned 2 weeks later with a new mother board and CPU and the old video card, and now the sound doesn't work. More calls, more on phone diagnostic effort, and one change that the tech had me make stopped the computer from working altogether. They finally agreed to send a new video card 2 day expedite, and have a tech come to install and diagnose what else might be wrong. The card was sent 3 day super saver, and is still not due to arrive until later tomorrow. I am a contractor and make a living with my computer - care to venture a bet on what brand I will NEVER buy or recommend again?
Posted by evilchime (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
What's the big deal?
Any that cares to remember will know that the price of PCs have gone down so much that the profits from selling the hardware is negligible. If you want better service, you should be willing to pay for it. So don't ***** about the service while at the same time clamoring for low prices. Besides, there's nothing really hard about the PCs if you're willing to put in minimum time to learn the stuff.
Posted by oxtail01 (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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