Dell tops in corporate satisfaction

Dell Computer makes its corporate customers very happy, and after a rough stretch Compaq Computer is once again in the good graces of most buyers. This assessment comes from a study released on Monday by Technology Businesses Research.

Dell ranks number one in customer satisfaction for desktops, notebooks, and Intel-based servers for the first quarter of 2000, says Julie Perron, manager of primary research at Technology Business Research. The survey is based on the responses of 550 information technology managers at large US corporations.

"Dell is pretty hard to beat," Perron says, noting the company's strong performance over many quarters. Dell's overall scores remain relatively consistent in desktops and servers. They improved most significantly in the notebooks category, she says. The improvements came largely in the area of delivery and availability, where Dell has struggled some in the past.

Dell customer loyalty ratings across all three form factors are the highest in the study, she says. Dell's scores are also notable in that its customers tend to be in greater agreement about the company's level of product and service quality, she says.

Some vendors receive a wider range of scores. For example, some IBM customers confer high marks, while others score it poorly. That indicates inconsistencies by the vendor, Perron says.

IBM slips, Compaq pounces

Compaq took advantage of IBM's inconsistencies, besting Big Blue in both desktop and notebook categories, Perron says. Compaq replaced IBM as the second highest rated vendor for notebooks and desktops. IBM fell to third place in notebooks and fifth place in desktops, behind Hewlett-Packard and Gateway 2000. The company placed third in the Intel-based server category.

Compaq's other notable scores: It was the only vendor to receive "exceptional" scores for technical support response and on-site support expertise.

IBM's decline in desktops is due largely to delivery problems and uncompetitive pricing, the report says. It also notes that IBM offers a superior notebook product, but drops the ball on support.

"Customer service is clearly IBM's downfall," Perron notes. IBM placed fourth overall in the Intel server category.

Gateway, HP, and Toshiba are the other major vendors appearing in the study. HP improved its scores in the server category, squeaking by Compaq to place second to Dell. It landed in third place in the desktops category, where the study calls the company an "average competitor" with improving scores in technical support response and on-site support.

Gateway placed fourth in the desktop category. The report notes that many customers question the reliability of the company's desktops, citing new systems with defective parts. However, the survey says Gateway responds well to problems and "restores customer confidence" by quickly shipping replacement parts.

Finally, top-selling notebook maker Toshiba rounds out the notebook category with a fourth-place finish. The company continues to score weakly in most areas, Perron says. Its customer loyalty rating is more than 21 percent lower than Dell's rating.

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