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Consumers Remain Less Than Thrilled About Computers

The University of Michigan's National Quality Research Center issued its latest American Customer Satisfaction Index findings this morning, and computer manufacturers should not feel flattered by the findings.

The ACSI surveys customer happiness with different industries each quarter. This quarter's report [PDF] focuses on, among others, the personal-computer business. (It also covers automobile manufacturing, Web-search portals and online media--no, washingtonpost.com didn't show up in the rankings.)

Here are the scores for the top PC brands, on a scale of 0 to 100:

* Apple: 79
* HP: 76
* All Others: 75
* Gateway: 75
* Dell: 74
* Compaq: 73

In a commentary published alongside the results, Michigan economics professor Claes Fornell analyzed the results:

Dell's result is not surprising. A year ago, even though the company's ACSI score was up, customer service remained an issue and we noted that the company would need to take significant steps to reverse this trend. However, it appears that any fixes the company may have attempted were short lived. Dell now resides among the lower echelon of measured PC makers, a solid 5 points behind Apple, and only 1 point above the Compaq division of Hewlett-Packard.

With more than $21 billion in revenue, Apple has grown by nearly 400% in sales during the past 5 years. Recent demand for Mac computers is up by about 25%, which is more than twice the rate of growth for the overall PC market. Many analysts seem to believe that Apple is gaining market share in part because of iPod users switching to Mac computers. It is very difficult to ensure that both customer service and satisfaction stay high when a company suddenly needs to service many more customers. This is probably what is behind the decline in customer satisfaction for Apple. According to the Economist (6/9/07), there are also "grumblings about manufacturing defects and customer service."

I was most surprised to see such little variation among the scores. Given the vitriol some people express towards their PCs, I expected at least a 10-point spread between the best and worst. I also thought that somebody would score an 80 or better; it's dismaying to think that this industry can't eke out a B-, much less an A.

Do these numbers not match your sense of how the industry's doing? If so, how would you rank these companies?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 14, 2007; 10:20 AM ET
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Comments

If you read the report, the way it describes the drop in Apple owners satisfaction was likened to Toyota -- such incredibly rapid growth is going to bring some consumer issues to light. I know that when the MacBook came out last summer there were some issues with random shutdowns, but Apple addressed them and people are now enjoying the fact that they can have a Mac which is affordable. Many people, like myself, were fed up with all the anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware programs we had to run every single day on our PCs. I think the satisfaction numbers will go back up for Apple in the upcoming year, and I feel the buyers are more than simply iPod owners.

Posted by: rjrjj | August 14, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I am sure that Apple is showing growing pains. More than the iPod, the fact that I can now run Windows XP or Vista on my Mac made all the difference. I only had one major "PC only" program that I needed. Now the PC is a doorstop.

Apple satisfaction rates will recover.

Posted by: Robert | August 14, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

i hope your great paper and this great section will cover the new 700-Mhz radio spectrum auction again, http://www.fcc.gov/ ,because as many point out, Verizon or ATT will try to grab a 22 Mhz chunk to keep others from offering truly open access and open options of gadgets, apps,browsers,techs. like cognitive radios,etc., a disaster for the USA economy and the last chance for kids and adults to start new enterprises and new tools, how sad to see P.Bush totally out of the loop going from one place to the other on his helicopter not even knowing of these lost chances, how sad !

the FCC is already not helping the consumers and taxpayers by rejecting any work of the White Space Coalition, MS-HP-Intel-Google-Dell-etc., who are trying to use the unused spectrum of the old TV networks, what a shame !

in the meantime China is installing oil/gas rigs,base-stations,roads and electrical grids in Chad,Sudan, Cameroon, all over Africa, while here in the USA our "politicos" are....what are they doing ??? no geothermal,no fusion,no turbines for wind and water, no E-85 or HYDROGEN or electric chargers in gas stations, no solar in roofs and gardens,no new wireless video-conference mobile devices, the "new office" !, nothing ! the chinese will end up controlling all wireless in these areas as well as the rest of Africa, good for them and shame on us ( and the europeans) for not doing anything ! very sad and stupid !

Posted by: blogger | August 14, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

blogger, what did your comments have to do with Rob's original post?

Posted by: David | August 14, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes! I have a HP laptop, and love it! I also have an 80gig iPod, and love it. I switched from Toshiba right when Vista came out, and, several months in, cannot picture a situation where I would buy anything other than HP. It's just awesome. My iPod is nice, but I think that Apple has the record for treating me like complete garbage on the phone. Two graduate degrees and they, with no apologies, treated me like a felon on a Greyhound bus when I called with a couple questions. I am glad that I called instead of visiting the store, for I am convinced at this point they would have, at minimum, rumpsearched me with a boot on my neck, if not treating me to the full Padilla.

Posted by: King of the Pumpkins | August 14, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

rjrjj,

You do realize that as Apple's marketshare increases you'll need to start running more and more malware programs, right?

The only reason Mac's have skirted by the security issue is that A. It's been easier to attack Windows machines, and B. There's more Windows machines to attack (more bang for the buck for the bad guys).

Don't become less vigilant just because you run a different machine.

Posted by: Kim | August 14, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Back to the topic at hand, should it really surprise us that there's not a lot of difference? For the most part, those companies all use the same suppliers (which fluctuate from day to day), so really the difference maker should be the Customer Service aspect.

Posted by: Kim | August 14, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see how Lenovo scored, since my family has years of good experiences with ThinkPads and I'm getting ready to buy another one soon.

Posted by: William | August 14, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Well, let's see... I just spent nearly an hour downloading and installing the latest patches from Redmond. We have three PCs at work; while I home I use an iBook at home. I agree with the person above: Customer service is the issue. Many people who switched from PC to Mac believed that all they had to do was buy an Apple product and that was it! Unfortunately, in today's virus-filled world, you need to take care of yourself.

I think that the numbers are close due to the fact that some people will always express their loyalty to a certain brand. I always thought HP made a fine product, but it's just not an Apple.

Posted by: umm.huh | August 14, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

My 2002 HP desktop computer has been flawless, not requiring a single repair. (No other complaints, either.)

BTW, in the US, Apple's market share has "skyrocketed" all the way to 5.6%. Worldwide, their market share is in the Others category, behind HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and Toshiba.

Posted by: TomT | August 14, 2007 11:47 PM | Report abuse

May be time for Dell to restructure its business model and i dont think Micheal Dell is the right person for this?

Posted by: 360view4u.co.uk | August 15, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

For 30 years I have had computers in our home. Had about every brand and OS... but the Mac pulled me away from using the others. A beautiful OS and a beautiful machine. 17 years on a Mac, not a single virus... so far.

Posted by: bwhite | August 15, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, not really surprising that they are all rated nearly the same. They do all use pretty much the same hardware suppliers, and they are all pretty terrible at customer service. Based on all of the trouble with recent Apple products, I am surprised that they are even ranked that high. With battery issues and class action lawsuits coming up with just about anything Apple puts out, my feeling is that Apple has just done a good job of marketing. And certainly the supposed security perks associated with Apple computers will evaporate as soon as any serious number of people start using them. I also feel like even normal non computer geek types will very quickly get fed up with the fact that all Apple products are made disposable and completely impossible for anyone other than the Apple factory to work on or replace parts. I admit I am a PC user who wishes his company used Linux.

Posted by: rpater | August 15, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Guys you'll still do not get it! the price still has to come down than see those figures change

Posted by: Bertrand Juan | August 15, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

After two Dell computers, I was so disgusted with their customer service that I started looking for an alternative. A friend, a long time MAC user, extolled the IMAC--its reliability, power, ease of use and, above all, its customer service. I purchased an IMAC and have found it superior to anything I've used in the past. Someone made a good point, above, regarding an expanded customer base for
Apple and a potential for security problems and even a lowering of their excellent customer service. I remember that Dell at one time had the best customer service and as they grew to giant proportions, they began offering outsourced assistance. Now it's among the worst. I hope that Mr. Jobs has taken an object lesson from this. We'll see.

Posted by: Diogenes | August 15, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Consumers may all be relatively happy with the hardware, but I'd like to see a satisfaction survey between the major operating systems OS X and Vista. If you're looking for a ten point spread, you'd probably find it easily there.

Posted by: Marco | August 16, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

""BTW, in the US, Apple's market share has "skyrocketed" all the way to 5.6%. Worldwide, their market share is in the Others category, behind HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and Toshiba.""


Yes, and for reference, BMW is around 2.6% market share in the US, and lower worldwide. Market share is meaningless if you don't know how big the market is. 5.6% represents tens of millions of computers that are largely in the hands of private consumers, not corporations.

Posted by: Marco | August 16, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Imagine, an iMac as your 1st computer (aside from a '91 word perfect only set up). Customer is service so good.
All you valid smarties, buy into the three year deal.

Posted by: Walter @ 60 | August 16, 2007 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I bought a Compaq Presario from Best Buy. I have had so many problems ( and I paid for additional support) with the pre-installed anti-virus- SYMANTEC NORTON ( I removed it and replaced it after COMPAQ refused to honor their warranty. (It's not over yet. I have them in small claims court along with Best Buy).

I can say this- the computer manufacturers and the software manufacturers are creating a tremendous amount of JUNK on purpose to create dependency and a HUGE AFTER MARKET.

Posted by: charlie | August 16, 2007 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Computer are complicated machines. Most men don't understand then. When they work well they are wonderful but when they dont' they are a pain-come to think of it one could say the same for women.

Posted by: Cajun Bob | August 17, 2007 1:33 AM | Report abuse

"... And certainly the supposed security perks associated with Apple computers will evaporate as soon as any serious number of people start using them. ... all Apple products are made disposable and completely impossible for anyone other than the Apple factory to work on or replace parts."

---

There are, indeed, a "serious" number of us Mac users. And you can bet there are some serious efforts by hackers to bring down the machine, especially since some of us brag a bit too much. I'm sick of the "security through obscurity" argument. It just doesn't hold water. Why would a hacker bother with such a small percent of the market? Because if he succeeded in spreading viruses or spyware on Macs, he'd become a hacker superstar. It hasn't happened yet, but they'll keep trying.

I sure wouldn't call the Mac disposable. There are lots of aging G3 and G4 machines still going strong, and running the current OS, no less! Try loading XP or Vista on an 8 or 10-year-old machine.

Posted by: Randy | August 18, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

i've been rolling w/ Apple/Macs for 10+ years, never had a Windows box, no regrets about my choices as my Macs have done what i needed to do. i make art-movies, music, photography & @ these Apple/ Mac excels. Final Cut-which has become an industry standard in less than 5 years- along w/ iLife has made it possible for me & my Macs to create some slick, polished product. Daphna summed it up for me & many others w/ her ode "I Love my Mac"--anyone written anything similar describing/proclaiming the joys of using/owning their Windows boxes? i use a Mac because it thinks like me & works for me-- a right -brained creative individual as are most Mac users. for me Macs, Rock & Rule!

Posted by: dkjazz | August 19, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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