AT&T Gains as Verizon Wanes in Customer Satisfaction

by Matt Klassen on May 16, 2012

Somewhere along the line things went sideways for AT&T’s public image. Seemingly gone were the days of old reliable Ma Bell, a company that instilled a sense of confidence and comfort in the American public, an entity that was as American as baseball or apple pie, gradually replaced in this modern age with a company plagued by its deplorable customer service, persistent network issues, and faceless and aloof corporate interactions with its loyal subscriber base.

But according to the annual satisfaction survey regarding wireless carriers released by The American Customer Satisfaction Index it looks like the times are changing, as AT&T has finally learning that, lo and behold, customers are important! In fact, for a company that has perpetually found itself at the bottom of the list, the country’s second largest wireless carrier now finds itself within striking distance of the top spot (currently occupied by Sprint Nextel), a previously unimaginable situation given AT&T’s reputation.

The paradigm altering survey results don’t stop there, however, as it turns out that among the major American wireless carriers AT&T is the only one to have improved its overall customer satisfaction rating, proof at least that when you’re at the bottom there’s nowhere else to go but up…perhaps hell has indeed frozen over.

Truthfully I don’t know what AT&T has changed in its general approach to customer relations that has allowed for this dramatic turn of events, but the country’s second largest wireless carrier scored an impressive 69 out of 100 in the survey, a dramatic 5 percent increase for the previous year. While admittedly that increase still places AT&T in a tie with its estranged former bedfellow T-Mobile for third place, it’s not far off from the top, with Verizon holding the second spot with a 70 percent satisfaction rating and Sprint Nextel capturing the top spot with 71 percent satisfaction.

While this survey bodes well for AT&T’s revamped focus on the customer, it also shows a disturbing downward trend for Verizon, who dropped 3 points this year and saw its third consecutive year of losses in its customer satisfaction rating.

“New fees for phone upgrades and a surge in traffic accessing data has increased Verizon’s revenue, but at the expense of customer satisfaction,” ACSI founder Claes Fornell explained in the report. “Verizon’s prices have gone up, but its reliability has not improved. Plus, bandwidth is increasingly challenged by Verizon’s nearly 110 million users.”

AT&T is not the only one to benefit from the cracks in Verizon’s previously solid satisfaction rating, however, as this year’s results are the culmination of an impressive comeback for Sprint Nextel, which only 4 years ago (2008) scored an embarrassing 58 on the same satisfaction survey.

But as I mentioned, AT&T is the only carrier among the Top Four to actually experience an increase in its satisfaction rating, as along with Verizon’s aforementioned 3 point slide Sprint fell 1 point as did T-Mobile.

In the end, while we wait till next year to see if these numbers evidence a systemic change or are simply an aberration, you can bet that both Sprint and AT&T will latch on to their newfound gains in customer satisfaction with all the marketing gusto they can muster, while Verizon, the once great champion of customer service, will try to get its customers to focus on anything but just how unsatisfied they really are.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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