US consumers happier with Samsung than Apple

Customer satisfaction in the US mobile market hasn’t changed much in the past 12 months, the latest data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows, which, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, is clearly a good thing.

But there are a couple of highlights worth noting: T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint has affected its rating, pushing it below major rivals AT&T and Verizon; and the iPhone has fallen off its perch as America’s most loved smartphone.

“When you consider how much consumers relied on wireless this past year, the relative stability of the industry is a win,” said David VanAmburg, Managing Director at the ACSI, in a statement accompanying the publication of the latest index. He noted that customer satisfaction with MVNOs, both full-service MVNOs and value players, has dropped a little; the ratings of both were more closely in line with the MNOs this year than last. But the change was “not enough to create a stir,” VanAmburg said.

“Where things start to get interesting, however, is the cell phone space,” he went on. “Let’s just say the iPhone is no longer the apple of the consumer’s eye.”

Oooh, nice soundbite. And an interesting snippet of information too.

In the latest consumer satisfaction index, Samsung claimed first place amongst handset makers with an ACSI score of 81. ACSI assigned its scores based on interviews with 21,189 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between 1 April 2020 and 29 March 2021. Samsung’s score was unchanged compared with last year’s survey, but its position improved due to a slide in satisfaction for Apple. The iPhone maker lost two percentage points, giving it a score of 80, putting it a three-way tie for second place with Motorola, which added four percentage points, and Google, entering the index for the first time.

Five individual Samsung devices rank above all others, the highest being the Galaxy Note10+, Galaxy S10+, and Galaxy S20+, all of which scored 85. Samsung’s sixth ranked device, the Galaxy S10, tied with the four highest-scoring Apple devices at 82.

On the telco side, when scored as a group both network operators and full-service MVNOs came in at 73; however, the MNOs’ figure was flat on last year while the MVNOs declined for the second year running. Value MVNOs outpace them both at 75, although that too was a decline of a few percentage points.

AT&T and Verizon both scored 75, making them the top two MNOs, but last year’s leader T-Mobile US dropped by as much as five percentage points to 72.

“According to ACSI data, mergers usually negatively impact customer satisfaction. Given T-Mobile’s sudden fall from grace, it appears we’re now witnessing the implications of the carrier’s union with a former MNO bottom dweller,” ACSI said. Its choice of words might sting a bit for former Sprint staff.

In addition to measuring customer satisfaction, ACSI also monitors network quality: in this case, Verizon remains on top.

Its satisfaction index also looks at price plans. Its survey showed that customers paying between US$501 and $1,000 per month are the most satisfied, but those in the $26 to $50 per month bracket are also quite satisfied and the most loyal. The most dissatisfied customers spend $251 to $500 per month, while the least loyal customers spend more than $1,000 per month, it said, noting that its data could show service providers which segments could benefit the most from an improved customer experience.

At first glance it seems like a no-brainer: telcos need to work harder to keep the highest spenders happy, although – unsurprisingly – it seems like they might be the hardest to please.

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