The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a gold standard of research about consumer preferences, named Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) as the top personal computer (PC) manufacturer. The contribution of the Mac is often lost in discussions about Apple’s future and revenue. Its sales are dwarfed by those of the iPhone, which was recently upgraded to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. However, according to the research, the Mac helps Apple’s image as the premier manufacturer of consumer electronics.
Other manufacturers did not fare so well. Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) was at the bottom of the list. Toshiba, Dell and Acer barely did better. Each was below the industry average for customer satisfaction, and each lost ground.
ACSI researchers commented:
Apple drops 3 percent to 84, but maintains a sizable lead over its major competitors, which it has held since 2004. Nevertheless, companies with a smaller market share, such as Samsung, Lenovo and Asus, are closing in, up 8 percent to an ACSI score of 82. The large Windows-based manufacturers do not fare well. Dell declines 4 percent to tie Acer at 76, followed by Toshiba (-4% to 75). Hewlett-Packard plunges 8 percent to the bottom of the category at 74.
A surprising finding was that PC customer satisfaction moved ahead of that for smaller computers:
Mobile computing devices, like laptops, tablets and smartphones, have adversely affected demand for desktop PCs, as consumers postponed replacing older desktops in favor of mobile platforms. But declining user satisfaction and cooling demand for tablets suggest that manufacturers have not kept up with consumer expectations. Growing satisfaction with desktops and weakening satisfaction for tablets and laptops might present an opportunity for manufacturers to exceed buyer expectations with innovative desktop PCs — but only smaller manufacturers are succeeding in this regard, as all of the largest PC makers deteriorate.
Claes Fornell, ACSI’s chairman and founder, gave his explanations for the trend:
The increase in customer satisfaction for PCs could mean two different things. Either the product is seen as more attractive now and is poised for a comeback, or it has higher customer satisfaction simply because those who were less than happy with it have moved to other devices. If dissatisfied customers leave and satisfied customers stay, average satisfaction may well go up.
Regardless of the reason, the power of Apple’s brand probably helped it in the ratings, along with its uncanny ability to makes customers happy about their products and the way in which they are supported by the company.
Methodology: The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The ACSI uses data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually as inputs to an econometric model for analyzing customer satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as more than 100 services, programs and websites of federal government agencies.