Apple Beats HP and Dell in Customer Satisfaction, Study Finds

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2009-06-26

Apple beat Dell and HP in customer satisfaction ratings based on telephone-based tech support, according to a new study from Vocalabs, which spoke with 1,147 consumers immediately following their support calls.
Of these consumers, 58 percent of Apple customers reported they were "very satisfied" with the call, versus 46 percent of Dell customers and 43 percent of HP customers. Only Apple, Dell and HP customers were included in the survey, which lasted a year and ended May 31, 2009.
Vocalabs found that customers of all three manufacturers were generally satisfied with the hold times they encountered, as well as their ability to reach a tech support agent and the agent's professionalism. However, there was larger difference in the numbers regarding whether the tech problem had been resolved: 53 percent of Apple customers reported that their problem had been fix during the call, versus 45 percent of Dell customers and 39 percent of HP customers.  
Vocalabs reports that technical support can have a "profound and lasting effect" on a customers' willingness to buy from a manufacturer again, and that customer service has significant impacts on customer satisfaction, loyalty and promotion. The researcher measured eight ways, or "call factors," that it discovered to be areas in which companies could control negatively or positively affecting a customer.
Of the call factors - no problems with the interactive voice response (IVR); the ability to reach a person; whether it was easy to reach a person; a reasonable wait time; no irrelevant steps; the agent was professional; they could escalate help if needed; and the problem was solved - Vocalabs found that issue resolution had the greatest impact on the customer's call satisfaction.
Further, customers who stated they were "very satisfied" with the call were 56 percent more likely to purchase again from the company than customers who were "dissatisfied" with the call.
In other terms, 91 percent of customers who stated they were very satisfied reported they intended to repurchase from the company, versus 34 of those who were dissatisfied with the call intended to purchase again.
Vocalabs additionally found that satisfaction with the IVR had less of an impact than satisfaction with the call or the agent, "possibly because of lower consumer expectations with those systems," writes Peter U. Leppik, Vocalabs CEO and author of the report.
Looking again more specifically at the three manufacturers, Vocalabs asked customers three call-related satisfaction questions, the first about their satisfaction with the call as a whole, another about their satisfaction with the person who handled the call and the third about their satisfaction with the IVR.
Regarding overall satisfaction, Apple again came out on top, with 58 percent of respondents saying they were very satisfied, versus 46 percent of Dell customers and 43 percent of HP.
More Apple customers were also satisfied with the agent they interacted with, with 74 percent saying they were very satisfied, while 56 percent of Dell customers reported the same and 49 percent of HP customers did. (On the flipside, 7 percent of Apple customers were very dissatisfied with the agent, versus 20 percent of Dell customers and 27 percent of HP customers.)
The IVR drew strong responses, with 40 percent of Apple customers saying they were very satisfied, though 31 percent saying they were dissatisfied. 30 percent of Dell customers were very satisfied, while 33 percent were dissatisfied, and 31 percent of HP customers were very satisfied, while 23 percent were dissatisfied.
According to Leppik, the most striking differences he found between the three companies were in the percentage of callers whose tech issues were resolved during the call, and those who felt there were no irrelevant steps involved.
"In both of those call factors, Apple customers reported significantly more positive experiences on the call," writes Leppik.
"This explains why, in this survey, Apple customers are significantly more satisfied with the outcome of the call than Dell or HP customers, and therefore more satisfied with the company overall and more willing to buy additional Apple products after the technical support experience."
In a May J.D. Power and Associates report, Apple iPhone users reported the highest satisfaction rates among smartphone users.  

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