updated 02:15 am EDT, Tue May 1, 2012
Dramatically lower complaints about service
A cross-industry survey done by consumer research firm Vocalabs has found that not only is Apple the most well-regarded provider of customer service in the tech industry, but across several different industries. The firm found Apple with dramatically lower incidences of unhappy clients following a tech support call, particularly in the crucial customer-satisfaction are of call representative language barriers. The survey compared a total of 12 computer, telecom and banking providers.
The survey data was collected from recent phone interviews conducted over the last year and three months, from January of last year until March of this year. In all, about 7,149 interviews were conducted and 2,379 customer comments and complaints collected to form the data used in the study. Apple, HP and Dell represented the tech sector; AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for telecom companies, and Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo represented the banking industry.
One of the least-surprising metrics in the study was the conclusion that few customers appreciate the automated portion of a customer-service call, often in the form of hold messages but also including key-pad driven menu options that try to "sort" callers into categories so that the human representative has some basic information about the case already before them when they get to the call. Overall, the dissatisfaction rate with the automated portions of support calls was higher than for almost any other sort of complaint, averaging around four percent.
Indeed, this was the only area of the survey in which Apple was not at or near the lowest number of complaints. Customers who volunteered that they didn't like the automated portion of a support call constituted 3.31 percent of callers to Apple, significantly lower than Citi financial group's 7.55 percent but much higher than Dell's 0.99 percent or HP's 1.04 percent.
By contrast, the study showed that Apple customers leave the support call experience very satisfied, far more so than most other of the companies surveyed. The study asked customers (and collected volunteered comments) that indicated if a customer was seriously planning to take their business elsewhere; Apple handily won the category with an average of 0.44 percent.
In the tech sector, this compares to Dell's 1.66 percent (four times higher) and HP's 2.33 percent (almost six times higher). The only business to come close to Apple's satisfaction score was Citi with 0.63 percent, though banks (apart from Wells Fargo, which did the worst of all 12 companies involved) generally did well under one percent.
Apple's common (but not exclusive) use of call centers located in North America was viewed very favorably by most callers, with 0.55 percent saying they had problems understanding the customer service representative, compared to 7.28 percent for Dell and 11.14 percent for HP, which did the worst of all companies in the study in this area by a huge margin. In the cell provider arena, Verizon was able to surpass Apple's score with 0.27 percent saying they had language issues.
Sprint had the most issues, with 1.58 percent of customers saying they had language difficulties. In the banking comparison, Wells Fargo was the clear winner with a perfect score (no complaints), with Bank of America close behind (0.66 percent) and Chase and Citi both over three percent.
The study also looked at reports of rude or impolite behavior by CSRs, and found that T-Mobile and Apple had the lowest incidence rate of the problem (0.29 and 0.55, respectively). Dell and Wells Fargo had the highest rates, at 2.98 and 2.06 percent respectively.
A related but separate metric measure reports of hang-ups (either originating from the company or from the customer), and found Apple again with a 0.55 percent rate, about average across all 12 companies. Citi had a perfect score of no reported hang-ups, while HP and Dell were the worst, with 1.81 and 1.32 percent reported respectively.