Customer satisfaction survey finds Sprint sharing lead with Verizon

Overall customer satisfaction with the nation's wireless carriers dipped slightly in 2011 compared with a reading from 2010, according to a leading national survey--though smaller carriers outpaced the Tier 1 operators.

Customer satisfaction att, tmobile, verizon sprint

Click here to see how the nation's largest wireless carriers scored.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which was founded by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, overall customer satisfaction with wireless telephone service dipped 1.4 percent in 2011 compared with 2010, to a score of 71 on a 100-point scale. However, for carriers such as MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), TracFone and U.S. Cellular, which are in the "other" category of the ACSI's survey, the score was 77.

Among the Tier 1 carriers, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) led the way with scores of 72. While Verizon's score has been relatively constant since 2007, Sprint's score represents a dramatic improvement from 2008, when it had an all-time-low score of 56. Sprint received scores of 63 in 2009 and 70 in 2010. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse continually points to the company's improvement in customer care as one of the carrier's signature achievements since he took over in late 2007 from Gary Forsee. 

In contrast to the upward trend Sprint is on, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA did not fare as well, according to ACSI. T-Mobile's score dropped 4.1 percent from a 73 in 2010 to a 70 in 2011, a five-year low. AT&T's score dipped 4.3 percent from a 69 in 2010 to 66 this year, its worst score since 2006, before the carrier's launch of the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. 

Both companies have seen drops in both customer satisfaction and customer service in the wake of AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. "It is common to find a reduction in customer satisfaction after mergers, but it is rare for customer satisfaction to drop ahead of a merger," Claes Fornell, a business professor at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "Assuming the deal is approved, it remains to be seen if a much larger AT&T can regain the strength of its customer relationships."

For more:
- see this ACSI release
- see this ACSI commentary

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