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

Crave More Cell Phone Features? You May End Up Being Less Satisfied.

Smartphones have radically altered the landscape of the cellular telephone industry, offering a startling array of apps that reach well beyond sending and receiving phone calls. But, more functionality makes for increasingly complex devices. With smartphones, it’s like you’re carrying a pocket-sized personal computer, and ACSI results show that PCs earn lower customer satisfaction scores than other types of durable goods, in part because of their complexity.

So, how happy are customers who use their phone as a mobile computing device versus those who use their phone as—simply put—a phone? ACSI results released in May 2012 show that the more complex the use, the less satisfied the user is overall with their chosen cell phone.

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Respondents to the survey were asked “other than making or receiving phone calls, what do you use your cell phone service for the most?” For phone-only users, satisfaction is 74 (on a 0 to 100 scale). But, when users do more than phone calling, satisfaction tapers off—from 70 for text messaging all the way down to 65 for multimedia use (such as gaming and video streaming).

While all cell phone users expect about the same level of quality from their phone (77 for phone only versus 76 for multimedia), differences emerge when they consider their actual experiences. The ACSI measures quality as a combination of customization (meeting personal requirements) and reliability (how often things go wrong). Both measures decrease as complexity of use increases, especially reliability.

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According to ACSI research, satisfaction tends to decrease as the number of customer touchpoints increases. This is because there are more opportunities for customers to be disappointed. To put this in context for cell phones: The more functionality the phone has—and that the customer makes use of—the greater the chance that something will go wrong. This can be anything from data upload speed to hardware and software problems.

Indeed, the percentage of customers who have complained to the manufacturer or wireless provider about their cell phone is dramatically lower for phone-only users versus any of the other categories.

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