Customer satisfaction with personal computers is at an all-time high, which could help lead to increased demand. That's the takeaway from a new survey released Tuesday by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.
Claes Fornell, ACSI's founder, said that, for demand to rebound, consumers must have both the "increased desire to spend and have the means to do so." He noted that the desire is met "in the form of higher customer satisfaction," although the means will depend on positive movement for jobs, wages and access to credit.
Apple Tops Again
Satisfaction with PCs is now at 78 on the ACSI 0-to-100 scale, an increase of four percent since the last survey. Apple is again the leader in satisfaction, including both its Mac and iPad product lines. This is the seventh straight year the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has occupied that position, and its current score is an increase of two points to an all-time high of 86.
ACSI attributes Apple's satisfaction success to innovation, product diversification, and strong customer service.
The second-place position -- shared by Dell, Acer, Hewlett-Packard, and a group of smaller makers like Sony and Toshiba -- is nine points down from Apple's, at 77. This is the largest gap between the leader and the second position in ACSI's survey history.
These second-place Windows makers have all enjoyed small increases since the last survey. Dell has increased by three percent; Acer, the maker of Gateway and eMachines; and the smaller computer makers are up by four percent. The Compaq division at HP, still at the bottom with an unchanged score of 74, was the only major manufacturer that did not increase.
Recovery from Vista
Part of the reason for the increase in satisfaction for Windows machines, Fornell said, is that they "appear to have recovered from the problems associated with the Windows Vista software." Less than a year into Windows 7's release, he added, brand satisfaction has revived to a level equal to, or greater than, the time before Vista.
Other reasons for high satisfaction with personal computers are lower prices, better customer service, and a wide range of new, smaller, portable PCs.
Consumer electronics in general, including TVs, DVD/Blu-ray players, and other devices, increased to 85, 2.4 percent higher than last year. This is ACSI's highest level for this category, as well as the highest level in any industry this year.
A key reason for the high satisfaction with consumer electronics is great pricing. The survey noted that some flat-screen TVs are now below $500, and prices for DVD/Blu-ray players and other devices also keep dropping.
Among cell phones, a category of "all others" took first place at 77, with three manufacturers in a tie for second with a score of 76 -- Nokia, Motorola and Samsung. ACSI said "all others" was the remainder of the market after those three makers were subtracted.
For wireless carriers, "all others" was tops at 76, followed by T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless sharing second at 73, Sprint Nextel measuring 70, and AT&T Mobility last at 69.