Apple keeps top spot in customer satisfaction

An annual index also finds that tablets are spurring PC makers to produce better wares

Apple retained the top spot in a survey released by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which also found that the tablet market is spurring PC makers to improve the quality of their products.

The satisfaction rate for computers, including tablets, was 86 percent among Apple users, which was a small drop compared to the 87 percent satisfaction rate last year, ACSI found. The high satisfaction rate among customers with iPad tablets kept Apple at the top, and with more people buying tablets generally, Windows PC makers are improving the quality of products to remain competitive, ACSI said in commentary released with the survey numbers.

Customers dissatisfied with Windows PCs from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Acer are defecting to Apple products, ACSI said. Apple is shipping more products every year, and the company's combined PC and tablet market share has been growing on a consistent basis. The small drop in satisfaction rates is not statistically significant, said David VanAmburg, managing director of ACSI LLC.

"As a result, for Apple to simply sell more laptops and/or iPads isn't likely to boost the overall score for Apple," VanAmburg said. "Apple products continue to be the best quality available to consumers, but as a whole the industry is doing a better job in recent years of providing higher-quality computer products to consumers."

Computer makers are offering better quality products, especially smaller, lighter, faster, more powerful and useful laptops and tablets, VanAmburg said. The better quality has resulted in less need for service or support.

ACSI measures the satisfaction index of multiple product indices and sectors in the U.S. The PC/tablet satisfaction index calculation involved surveying around 1,500 respondents in April, May and July. ACSI couldn't specify the number of respondents that owned Apple products.

Apple was the third-largest computer vendor in the U.S. behind Hewlett-Packard and Dell during the second quarter this year, according to research firm IDC. Apple's PC shipments in the U.S. totaled 1.8 million units during the second quarter, dropping by 1.1 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year. Apple topped the worldwide tablet market with a 69.6 percent market share in the second quarter of this year, while second-place Samsung had a 9.9 percent market share, according to IHS iSuppli.

The satisfaction rate among Windows PC owners grew as companies started making better products, ACSI said. Dell was in second place behind Apple with a satisfaction rate of 81 percent, improving from 77 percent last year. Dell in the past has had issues with customer service, especially with the non-business market, but the company is now phasing out low-priced consumer PCs in favor of high-end and business PCs like the XPS and Latitude.

The third spot was occupied by "other vendors," which include brand names like Lenovo, Samsung, Asustek and Sony, an ACSI spokesman said. Acer and Hewlett-Packard shared the fourth spot with a satisfaction rate of 79 percent, growing from 77 percent and 78 percent, respectively. HP last year decided to retain its PC business after mulling either to sell or spin it off.

ACSI is sponsored by the University of Michigan, the American Society for Quality and the CFI Group.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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