Dell customer rating falls while Apple leads pack, Survey Says

Dell Inc.'s customer satisfaction fell this year as consumers complained of long-wait times for help and trouble getting questions answered.

Customer satisfaction at Dell, the world's largest personal computer maker, declined 6.3 percent, based on the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index. Dell fell further behind Apple Computer Inc., which grabbed the top spot in 2004.

Dell's "dramatic" decline may be a sign the company is poised to lose sales, said Claes Fornell, marketing professor and head of the university's National Quality Research Center. Apple's customer satisfaction rating was unchanged at 81; Dell's declined to 74 from 79 last year. Among Internet companies, Time Warner Inc.'s America Online had the biggest gain, reports Bloomberg.

According to The Street, Apple 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.

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