"Apple leads and Dell lags," was the summary of an April 17 "Customer Experience Index (CxPi) 2008 Snapshot" from Forrester Research.
The Snapshot took a took a closer look at how five PC makers-Apple, Compaq, Dell, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard-fared within its CxPi, which polled 4,600 consumers about their interactions with various companies across 12 industries, gauging usefulness, usability and how pleasant the interactions were.
Forrester's overall verdict for the PC makers? "Poor."
"While customer experience is important for PC makers to cultivate loyal customers, they aren't doing a very good job," wrote Forrester analyst Bruce D. Temkin.
"As a group, these firms received a -poor' rating for their customer experience, coming in ahead of only ISPs, TV service providers and health plans."
On individual ratings, Apple scored a "Good" rating of 80 percent. Under the "Okay" category, Gateway was next in line, with 66 percent, following by HP with 64 percent and Compaq with 63 percent. Dell, with a 58 percent rating, fell under the "Poor" category.
Across all three areas studied by Forrester, Apple led its competitors with double-digit gaps, the largest of these being the "easy to use" category, in which Apple rated 17 points higher than Gateway and 28 points higher than Dell.
"Our research shows that good customer experience correlates with customer loyalty for PC manufacturers," writes Temkin. PC shipment numbers in the U.S. reported by IDC on April 14 and Gartner on April 15, however, both counted HP in first place, followed by Dell. Acer was third in the United States, with Apple and Toshiba behind it.
Temkin went on to write, though, that current economic conditions make it difficult to know what the business impacts of customer experience improvements will be.
Temkin and his coauthors, William Chu and Steven Geller, offer four pieces of advice for PC manufacturers thinking about customer experience "in these turbulent times."
- Good word of mouth can help. The analysts say that while there may not be many growth opportunities, customer experience improvements can certainly cut down on losses. The old adage of the restaurant business applies here: A good experience is shared with one friend, but a bad one is told to 10.
"[Don't] give customers a reason to regret their purchase and share those thoughts with their friends," states the report.
- Remember that it's a journey. PC manufacturers need to think of their customers' experience as a long-term asset. To build momentum in an economic downturn, the report suggests, focus on several areas, including "prioritizing moments of truth, seeking usability improvements and increasing communications with employees."
- Maintain an outside-in approach. The analysts recommend manufacturers get to know their customers better and better incorporate their voices into future planning.
- Keep an eye on the long term. To maintain a long-term road map toward what Forrester calls Experience-Based Differentiation, or EBD, PC makers should obsess about customer needs, reinforce their brand with every interaction and treat customer experiences as a competence, not a function.
As a whole, the PC manufacturing industry received a score of 64 percent on the Forrester CxPi, with credit card providers (scoring 68 percent) and even airlines (65 percent) ranking ahead of them. Consumers rated their interactions with retailers most favorably, with an average score of 81 percent, followed by hotels (79 percent ) and insurance providers (73 percent).