Customer SatisfactionPC industry U.S. customer satisfaction has improved this year—up 2.8% from 2011–reaching an all-time American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)-high of 80 as the “transformation toward smaller, more mobile computing and away from desktop computing” unfolds. 2012’s all-time high “blasts away” the previous ACSI high of 78, which was hit in both 2010 and 2011, according to ACSI’s latest customer satisfaction report.

ACSI’s PC industry customer satisfaction index includes desktops, laptops and tablets, with this year’s improvement driven in large part by satisfaction with tablets, which is higher than that for desktops or laptops, ACSI notes.

“The recent stall in demand for desktop PCs comes in conjunction with a surge of interest in small, mobile computers; in particular, devices that are ultra-thin or lightweight,” commented Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and author of The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.

“The current ACSI uptick for the industry at large is driven, in part, by the higher levels of customer satisfaction that tablets enjoy over desktops and laptops. As tablets gain market share, overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry picks up.”

Customer satisfaction with Apple’s PC products continues to lead the industry, though across-the-board gains in Windows-based products ate into Apple’s lead this year, according to ACSI. Apple’s ACSI score totaled 86 out of a possible 100, down 1% year-over-year (YoY)–still a commanding 5-9-point gap over competitors. Apple is benefiting from the popularity and customer satisfaction of its iPad line of tablets, though “the rest of the industry seems to be doing a better job of pleasing the customers that they are keeping,” ACSI points out.

Dell’s ACSI score jumped 5% to 81, though its consumer market share is shrinking. The same pattern is seen for the other major Windows-based manufacturers, ACSI notes. Windows-based PC market share leader HP’s 2012 ACSI score rose 1% TO 79, only one point shy of its record high, but there too, the company’s PC shipments dropped 13% YoY in 2Q. Similarly, Acer’s ACSI score rose 3% to an all-time high of 70 while its shipments were down 14% YoY.

Included in ACSI’s survey for the first time, Toshiba debuted with an ACSI score of 77. Toshiba suffered the biggest decline in U.S. shipments in the industry—20% from a year ago. The aggregate ACSI score for smaller PC manufacturers was 80, a 4% improvement. Smaller PC makers gained market share at a pace even greater than Apple.

“What may be occurring is that the defection of the least satisfied customers of traditional PC brands such as Dell, HP and Acer to Apple and other smaller tablet makers actually may be boosting customer satisfaction for all,” says Fornell. “The companies that lose market share will maintain their most loyal and happy customers, while those who migrate to other companies in search of new products are more pleased as well.”

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