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Thursday, January 27, 2011, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Apple slipping, but still leads Dell and HP in tech support satisfaction

Apple's lead over HP and Dell in customer service satisfaction rankings has narrowed over the last year, but its customers still reported fewer nuisance issues and greater satisfaction by a significant margin.

According to the National Customer Service Survey report by Vocalabs, which compares the customer service quality of different companies in the same industry using call statistics and survey data collected from over 2,100 users immediately after they place a service call, Apple's customer service remains the best in its class.

However, the percentage of Apple's customers reporting that their problem was solved on the call dropped 7 points to 60 percent over the second half of 2010. Additionally, the number of customers reporting satisfaction with Apple's automated call handling also slipped.

Vocalabs' calculates a "nuisance factor" for Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, the industry term for automated telephone systems, which figures in customer reported problems such as irrelevant or repetitive steps or difficulty reaching an agent.

By that metric, 35 percent of Apple customers in the second half of 2010 reported issues, compared to just 21 percent a year ago, or 31 percent in the first half of 2010, a drop of 4 percentage points within 2010. In contrast, both Dell and HP improved by 9 and 7 percentage points, respectively, over that same period.

Their improvement wasn't enough to catch up, but it did narrow Apple's lead. Last year, Apple's "Nuisance Factor" was less than half that of Dell's, while the most recent survey numbers indicate just an 11 point lead.

In general satisfaction rankings, 66 percent of Apple's customers reported that they were "very satisfied" with their call, while only 51 percent of HP callers and just 49 percent of Dell's customers said the same.

Apple call satisfaction