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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Galaxy and iPhone Customers Weigh In on Their Brand of Choice

In July, the American Customer Satisfaction Index released its first-ever customer satisfaction results for top-selling smartphones. The 2013 scores prompted great interest and lively discussions in the media as two Samsung phones dashed past three Apple devices to lead the survey at 84 (on a scale of 0 to 100).

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The new brand study is based on the same independent, scientific methodology that the ACSI has employed since 1994 to measure 40+ industries which market products and services to U.S. consumers. Proprietary technology ensures all ACSI results are consistent, reliable, and comparable across time periods, companies, and industries.

In May, the ACSI issued updated customer satisfaction scores across the cell phone industry—a category measured since 2004. The yearly study measures customer satisfaction at the company level and includes each manufacturer’s complete product line—smartphones and feature phones. While Apple and BlackBerry offer smart devices only, other manufacturers such as LG, Nokia, and Samsung sell a mix of phones—some smart and some feature.

For the cell phone industry overall, Apple retains its lead for a second year, perhaps benefiting from its smart-only product line. Meanwhile, Samsung at 76 trails Apple by 5 points. There is, however, a key difference. While Samsung’s customer satisfaction trajectory is on the upswing and the company gains 7% compared to the prior year, Apple’s score slips—down from 83 in 2012 to 81 in 2013.

Enter the ACSI’s smartphone-only brand study. When considering only smartphones—which display a sharp customer satisfaction advantage over feature phones in ACSI research—Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Note II lead the field according to consumers who own these particular smartphone models. The owners of Apple’s iPhone 5, 4S and 4 give their smartphone choices somewhat lower scores in the range of 81 to 82.

Read more later this week in the ACSI’s August 2013 newsletter »

ACSI Smartphone Brand Study in the News:
Engadget
Forbes
InformationWeek
The Huffington Post