PCs Follow Negative Trend for Big-Ticket Durables

American consumers are not finding new technology appealing enough to offset pricing across an array of durable products including personal computers, autos, household appliances, and even televisions. For PCs, weak demand is reflected in lower customer satisfaction (-1.3% to 77) as many customers turn increasingly to smartphone use.

For durable products like PCs, prices are not down—if anything, they are rising. The global shortage of NAND flash storage caused an uptick in PC prices, which also contributes to lower satisfaction. But innovation—or lack thereof—is dampening buyer enthusiasm whereby consumers have little incentive to replace or upgrade their PCs. Over the last few years, basic desktop and laptop functionality has not changed much, and innovation is moving more slowly around the margins.

Among PC makers, the top of the industry for customer satisfaction is driven by Apple and Samsung—mirroring results for the cell phone category. High-scoring Apple has led the PC industry for years, while Samsung, first measured in 2015, has sprinted up to nearly catch the leader. The two companies’ cell phone offerings also run nearly neck-and-neck, and some of their individual smartphone brands earn very high scores in the upper 80s. In ACSI’s smartphone brand study released last spring, Apple’s iPhone SE ranks first among 20+ phones at 87, followed by Galaxy S6 edge+ (86), iPhone 7 Plus (86), and Galaxy S6 edge (85).

On the computer software side, customer satisfaction wanes 3.7% to 78 as both smaller companies and Microsoft tumble—the latter declining even as it transforms into a supplier of cloud-based services. Despite MS increasing the frequency of feature updates, both Windows and the Office Suite have yet to give users improvements that are compelling enough to propel higher satisfaction.

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What Will It Take to Keep Policyholder Satisfaction on Track?

As 2013 drew to a close, the ACSI issued its annual report on the Finance and Insurance sector, which showed across-the-board gains for three categories of insurance. Top improvement went to property and casualty insurance, up 3.8% to an ACSI benchmark of 81. This dovetails with the P/C insurance industry reporting its “best year since the financial crisis;” nevertheless, industry experts anticipate “more headwinds” going into 2014.

Health insurers face even greater challenges ahead, as the marketplace undergoes an expansion of historic proportions with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. Like P/C insurers, health insurers did a better job of satisfying customers, but with a modest gain of 1.4% to a much lower ACSI score of 73. Policyholder satisfaction for life insurers hit the high mark of 83, but the industry’s 2.5% gain came mainly from an upswing with smaller companies, who continue to outperform the larger carriers.

Looking at what each group does best, P/C policyholders respond positively to their local agents—giving them strong ratings of 87 for courtesy and helpfulness with policy purchases and 85 for claims handling. On the other hand, discounts and rewards are somewhat lacking (77), as customers seek better value from industry pricing. Life insurers are efficient when it comes to policy approval (87), but fall even further behind on discounting or bundling policies (74). For health insurance, policyholders are happy with their access to primary care doctors (82), but crave more plan choice (71)—a factor that may be as much about the limits of employer plans as it is about the providers themselves.

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Billing, timeliness, and website quality are key elements that impact the policyholder experience for all insurance types. According to customers, P/C insurers excel when it comes to understandable billing statements (85) whereas health insurers do not (75). Given the complexity of billing medical procedures and calculating deductibles and copays, this is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, this clearly is an area where companies could gain an advantage by developing more user-friendly processes.

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P/C insurers also are adept at offering high quality, multichannel solutions for communicating about policies and claims. The industry’s website satisfaction (83) and call center satisfaction (81) are much higher than the national ACSI averages of 78 and 74, respectively. For life insurers, website satisfaction also is above average (81). Across multiple channels, health insurers lag behind, just as they do for billing statement clarity, with website satisfaction at 73 and call center satisfaction at 72.

ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2013 »