Given so many PC choices, are customers finding satisfaction? According to a new report, the answer is yes -- in part because of tablets.
The report, the annual edition of the American Customer Satisfaction Index or ACSI, said that customer satisfaction with personal computers is at an all time high -- 80 on a 0-to-100 scale. ACSI interviews about 70,000 customers for its annual report, which also investigates satisfaction with other consumer equipment, such as TVs and dishwashers.
2.6 Percent Higher
The score of 80 for PCs is 2.6 percent higher than the previous high point of 78 in both 2010 and 2011. ACSI said that the PC category includes tablets along with desktops and laptops, because when customers were asked about PCs, they often included tablets in their responses.
Claes Fornell, ACSI founder, noted in a statement that "the recent stall in demand for desktop PCs comes in conjunction with a surge of interest in small, mobile computers" that are ultrathin or lightweight. He added that the increase in this year's satisfaction score for PCs "is driven, in part, by the higher levels of customer satisfaction that tablets enjoy over desktops and laptops." As tablets become even more popular and increase their market share, Fornell said, overall PC satisfaction is expected to continue rising.
On an individual maker basis, satisfaction with Apple's desktops, laptops and iPad slipped 1 percent to 86, although this is still five to nine percentage points higher than most of its competitors.
Dell's customer satisfaction increased 5 percent to 81, but, as the company increasingly focuses on business markets, its share of the consumer market is shrinking. ACSI said this pattern -- more satisfaction, smaller market share -- was also found for other major Windows machine-makers.
'Not Reinventing the Wheel'
Hewlett-Packard, for instance, notched up 1 percent to 79, while its PC shipments fell 13 percent in the third quarter compared with the same time last year. Acer gained 3 percent to 79, but its shipments dropped 14 percent. Similarly, Toshiba has a debut satisfaction score of 77, while its shipments have fallen 20 percent year-over-year.
But the smaller PC makers, including tablet-makers Samsung and Amazon, increased their customer satisfaction by 4 percent to 80, while gaining market share.
Fornell said that what appears to be happening is the least satisfied customers of traditional PC brands, such as Dell, HP, and Acer, are moving to Apple and smaller makers, thus "boosting customer satisfaction for all." He said "the companies that lose market share will maintain their most loyal and happy customers, while those who migrate to other companies" for newer products are also happier.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said this booming satisfaction with personal computers is reflected in surveys about hardware reliability. The current generation of PCs, she noted, "are not reinventing the wheel every time," and even tablets are "taking advantage of existing technology."
DiDio pointed out that "there used to be a clear differentiation between desktops and laptops" in terms of the capabilities that satisfy owners, but that is rapidly vanishing. Tablets may also soon become blurred with laptops, as Windows 8's touchscreen orientation leads to a variety of hybrid tablet-laptop convertibles.