Verizon Wireless handily outdid competitors AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in a survey of customer satisfaction and loyalty, ChangeWave Research reported May 4.
In a March survey of 4,040 smartphone customers, only 1.5 percent of Verizon customers reported experiencing dropped calls over the past three months-which was both the lowest rate in the industry and the lowest rate ever recorded by ChangeWave, in a series of surveys graphed since September 2008.
AT&T, conversely, received both the worst rating and the lowest score ChangeWave had ever recorded, with customers reporting 4.5 percent of calls being dropped in the last three months-three times as many as on Verizon's network.
"AT&T was clearly the worst in the March survey, tacking on yet another increase over the last ChangeWave research survey," ChangeWave said. "Furthermore, a closer look at the trends show an increasing number of dropped calls among AT&T customers surveyed, and a steadily decreasing number of dropped calls for Verizon customers."
Sprint came in second, with a dropped call rate of 2.4 percent. According to the report, dropped calls correlate very closely with overall customer satisfaction with a carrier, and Sprint has over the last year worked hard-and apparently successfully-to turn around its reputation in the areas of service and support. In fact, during Sprint's April 28 announcement of its first-quarter earnings, CEO Dan Hesse said half of customer care improvements made by the industry were attributable to Sprint.
T-Mobile came in third place, not far behind Sprint, with 2.8 percent of calls dropped.
And as for customer satisfaction, 49 percent of Verizon customers said they were "very satisfied" with their carrier's service, down slightly from the 50 percent who said the same in a January survey. Among Sprint customers, however, 35 percent said they were "very satisfied," which was up from 27 percent in January.
T-Mobile tied AT&T, with 23 percent of customers of each saying they were "very satisfied."
During AT&T's first-quarter earnings call, executives emphasized the strides that AT&T has made to improve its network-which, unlike any other in the United States, has both the benefit and the challenge of being the only one to offer the iPhone-to support its users' voracious data needs.
According to AT&T Chief Financial Officer Richard Lindner, AT&T's 3G voice composite quality index improved by 10 percent in the New York metro area during the quarter, and was up 47 percent in Manhattan in particular. Manhattan and San Francisco, with their dense populations and high concentration of iPhone users, have been particularly challenging areas for the carrier.
On the data front, Lindner added, "Companywide, our 3G average data download speeds are up 25 percent versus a year ago, based on internal data, and up 14 percent in just the past 90 days. In areas where we've completed the backhaul in support of HSPA 7.2, internal data is showing speed improvements in the 32 to 47 percent range, and that's very encouraging."
With Verizon rumored to be getting an iPhone of its own in early 2011, AT&T is under additional pressure to please-and keep-its customers.