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Apple tops PC rivals in customer experience, but iTunes lags behind

In a recent survey of customer experience, Apple ranked above its main competitors in the personal computing space, but consumers found iTunes to be behind rivals Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

In the new Customer Experience Index of 133 companies compiled by Forrester Research, Apple and its iTunes music service are ranked in places 35 and 46, respectively. While this placed Apple above its PC competitors HP (62nd place), Toshiba (71), Acer (79), Compaq (89), and Dell (97), iTunes fell below rivals Barnes & Noble, which came in first, and fourth-place Amazon.

iTunes' performance relative to other online services was specifically noted  to BusinessWeek by Bruce D. Temkin, VP and principal analyst of customer experience with Forrester.

Even if iTunes doesn't rank as high as Amazon in terms of "customer experience," it is still the premier destination to download movies, music and other content online. Last year, it was found that 25 percent of overall U.S. music sales come through iTunes. In terms of online music sales, iTunes is the undisputed leader with 69 percent of the market.

Also in the Forrester study, AT&T Wireless, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the US, was ranked below competitors T-Mobile and Verizon, but bested mobile carrier Alltel. AT&T saw a similar result in a study released in December, in which consumers ranked the carrier last in terms of customer satisfaction.

The Forrester study was comprised of 133 companies across 14 industries including PC manufacturers, wireless carriers and retailers. Retailers took 12 out of the top 20 spots, while healthcare and Internet, TV and cable providers were found toward the bottom of the list.

The only industries to receive a overall good rating (average score of 80 percent) were retailers, hotels, and parcel delivery services. Barnes & Noble retained its first place ranking from last year's survey with both Charter's cable and TV services taking last place. 

The Index was based on the responses of 4,653 US consumers made in November 2009. The companies were rated on three main questions:

    1. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how effective were they at meeting your needs? 2. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how easy was it to work with these firms? 3. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how enjoyable were the interactions?

In a similar study of customer experience done in April of 2009, Apple took the top spot among its peers, besting the competition by a considerable margin, being the only computer manufacturer to earn a "good" rating. In fact, Apple consistently outperforms its peers in the computer industry when it comes to customer satisfaction and service.