Study: Apple #1 in Customer Satisfaction for Q2; Dell Rating Falls Dramatically

American consumers rated Apple Computer with the PC industryis highest customer satisfaction scores in the second quarter, while Dell Inc. took a dramatic drop as their customers complained of long-wait times and few answers, a new survey revealed Tuesday.

Apple scored a rating of 81 in the University of Michiganis American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for the second quarter to take first place. The score was unchanged from the same quarter last year.

Dell, the worldis largest personal computer maker, declined 6.3% from 2004 to a 74 rating for second place among PC manufacturers. Hewlett-Packard Co. scored 73 for third place, Gateway was fourth with a 72 point score, and HPs Compaq brand was fifth with an overall score of 67.

"Appleis high score shows they are concentrating on after-the-sale support and making their customers extremely happy," Dr. Claes Fornell, marketing professor and head of the universityis National Quality Research Center, told The Mac Observer. "Apple has found the right model and is continuing to consistently please it customers."

The situation for Dell is extremely different. What was once a leader in the ACSI rankings is now suffering from a glut of customers it canit handle, Dr. Fornell said.

"The results for Dell are very surprising," he said. "It is rare to see such a sizable shift by an industry leader. Dell is dropping in large part because of call center problems, including long wait times and difficulty with consumers getting their questions answered."

Dr. Fornell said it appears the problems for Dell are due to stronger PC sales related to lower prices. "And as a result, Dell hasnit been able to stay up with the call demand," he said. "This poses a real challenge for them. They need to step up to the plate and fix this problem quickly."

Dr. Fornell commented that he often sees a drop in customer satisfaction on the heels of a companyis growing market share.

"You often see customers less happy as a companyis growth surges," he said. "I think this is what is happening to Dell. Youive got to make sure customers stay reasonably happy and get their questions answered. Any company that thinks a customer wonit remember months or years from now when they had a bad experience isnit paying attention."

The University of Michigan polls some 80,000 U.S. consumers quarterly to ask how companies are faring in terms of customer service, surveying 250 customers per company. Dr. Fornell said Appleis results were only related to Appleis support of the iPod digital media device if a consumer looked for answers directly related to a Macintosh PC.

Dr. Fornell said Appleis score of 81 was "among the highest" for any company. The overall PC group had an average of 74 points, slightly above the overall average for all companies of 73.1.

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