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Apple, Dell slip in latest customer satisfaction rankings

Overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry fell slightly during the second quarter of the year, with the majority of the decline coming as a result of new problems at system manufacturers Apple and Dell, according to a new report.

In its annual rankings, the University of Michigan cited American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) data that showed overall customer satisfaction with personal computer systems to have slipped 3 percent to a score of 75.

Apple and Dell contributed equally to the decline, according to the report, having each dropped 5 percentage points. Despite its fall, however, Apple still emerged as the the industry leader in customer satisfaction with a score of 79.

"Apple has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years," said Professor Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI at the University of Michigan. "As Toyota can attest, it’s not easy to manage quality and customer satisfaction when a company quickly has to increase production or provide service to a larger number of customers."

After last year’s improvement, Dell’s continuing customer service problems have the company back near the bottom of the PC rankings with a score of 74, according to the report. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard’s HP division improved 1 percent to 76, though its Compaq division is the worst in the industry at 73.

In regards to portals and search engines, Yahoo! improved 4 percent to 79 to take the lead over Google. The firm made a number of design changes and enhancements are paying off in higher customer satisfaction, according to Fornell, who says the moves will be critical to turning around this year’s lackluster financials.

Google fell by 4 percent from a year ago to a score of 78, but remained the most popular search engine. "Its home page has not changed much, and some users say it looks stale compared to, which has a very different display of search results," the report states.

The refresh over at may have helped juiced its ACSI score, which increased more than any other search engine — up by 6 percent to a score of 75. The spike over at Ask may also be a factor behind the falling Google scores, according to the report, as some users compare the two.

Unsurprisingly, beleaguered AOL suffered the largest plunge in customer satisfaction during the second quarter, down 10 percent to the lowest score in the industry (67).

2007 customer satisfaction rankings for PC manufacturers | Source: ACSI

The ACSI measures a different set of industries each quarter. Industries in the consumer durables and e-business sectors are measured every second quarter, including automobiles, personal computers, appliances, portals and search engines, and news and information websites.