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PC Customers Dis Dell

A survey shows satisfaction drops from a year earlier.

Much like its stock price

last week,


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customer satisfaction dropped sharply in the second quarter, according to a new survey from the University of Michigan released on Tuesday.

The falloff was the steepest among the major boxmakers;


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-branded products logged the largest increase in its customer satisfaction.

The new data come from a report issued as part of a quarterly assessment of customer satisfaction for various industries. Each industry is reviewed once a year. Overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry is unchanged from this time last year, but individual companies have changed in the eyes of consumers.


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retained its top ranking with an 81% satisfaction rate, flat with 2004 and above the PC-group average of 74%. Apple's rating has been on the upswing since 2002, the first year it rolled out its flat-panel iMac desktop PC and one year after it introduced its first iPod.

"A slew of product innovations and an emphasis on digital technologies and customer service have been very successful for Apple, with a high degree of customer loyalty as a result," says Claes Fornell, a business professor at Michigan and a director of the National Quality Research Center.

Dell's rating slipped to 74% this year from 79% in 2004. That level marked the lowest rating for Dell since 1998. In the past week, Dell announced two new customer contact centers, one in Ottawa and one in the Philippines, bringing its total number of locations where Dell customers can get help to more than 30.

Nonetheless, Fornell draws distinctions between Apple and Dell by noting that Dell's low-price strategy seems to be the prime reason it hasn't slipped below the industry average. "Customer complaints are up significantly with long wait-times, and difficulties with Dell's call centers abound," he says.

For the other boxmakers, Fornell found a growing spread within Hewlett-Packard between its H-P brand and its Compaq brand.

Hewlett-Packard-branded products received a 73% rating, up from 71% in 2004, and Compaq-branded products from H-P dropped to a 67% rating from 69% in 2004. In 2000, two years before H-P bought Compaq, Compaq's rating was 71%.



rating was 72%, down from 74% last year.

This is the 10th year of the survey, with 8,100 people participating in the most recent PC survey. All of the data were collected during the second quarter.