A study released today by CFI Group takes a look at smartphones and the carriers that support them. Not surprisingly, the iPhone ranks highest in customer satisfaction, beating out the Pre, Android, BlackBerry and the Palm Treo, in that order.
Beyond the obvious, the CFI Group study found that there’s really no correlation between a customer’s satisfaction with their carrier and satisfaction in any one particular smartphone. For instance AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone, finished well behind Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA in customer satisfaction numbers.
Among smartphone providers, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile tie in overall provider satisfaction, scoring 79. Sprint scores 74. AT&T’s non-iPhone smartphone customers score 73, while its iPhone users rate AT&T 69.
According to the study, Verizon is the ideal provider for 86 percent of smartphone users surveyed, yet only 38 percent of Verizon smartphone customers say their current phone is their ideal smartphone, the lowest percentage of any provider. Verizon has none of the most satisfying smartphones but still maintains a leadership position in satisfaction on the perceived strength of its network.
The implications of the study are significant. The results go a long way toward proving that handset exclusivity is not a silver bullet for any carrier. In fact, for AT&T, the iPhone may have actually hurt its customer satisfaction scores. According to CFI, half of those iPhone respondents said they would like to defect to another provider.
Additionally, 40 percent of iPhone users surveyed switched providers to get the phone, and these customers may be dragging down AT&T’s satisfaction score. In fact, iPhone customers that switched providers to get the device rated AT&T 64, which is well behind iPhone users who did not switch, which rated AT&T 72.
Doug Helmreich, program director with CFI Group, noted the complexities of being the sole keeper of the iPhone. “The iPhone has been a cash cow for AT&T, but that cash comes at a cost in terms of overall satisfaction. In effect, switchers can be satisfaction saboteurs if they were not already inclined to choose AT&T.”
A variety of conclusions could be drawn from the CFI Study. However, what really sticks out is that while more and more wireless subscribers are choosing smartphones, they’re also beginning to realize that the device in their hand might as well be a brick if it’s not combined with a fast and reliable network. No doubt, Verizon understands that fact given its recent “paper weight” TV spots.