Verizon outranks Sprint, AT&T in customer satisfaction study

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) topped the Tier 1 carriers in terms of customer satisfaction, according to an annual study from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. And wireless carriers overall reversed a two-year trend of deteriorating customer satisfaction with a 2.9 percent gain to achieve an overall score of 72, on a scale of 0-100, matching a 10-year high. Better call clarity and improved network coverage are being credited with making customers happier with their wireless service providers.

Verizon scored 73, on a 0-100 scale, a 4 percent gain over last year. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) stayed steady with a score of 71. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) received a score of 70, which is a 1 percent increase over last year. And T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) came in at the bottom with a 68 rating, down 1 percent for the second straight year. Interestingly, in aggregate, smaller wireless operators easily top the industry, ranking a score of 78.

Customers rate the reliability of wireless service in terms of call clarity (78.1), dropped calls (76.1) and network coverage (77.8). Customers, however, said they do not find the range of available voice and data plans to be varied (73.7) and for smartphone users, who rely on their wireless plans for streaming video and surfing the Web, data upload/download speeds are lacking (72).  

Customer satisfaction with wireless devices such as smartphones also improved 2.7 percent in 2013 for a total rating of 76, matching a 10-year high. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) leads the OEM ratings with an 81, but that's down 2 percent from the previous year. Samsung had the biggest gain of 7 percent for a rating of 76. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola had a rating of 77, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) had a 76 rating, HTC scored a 72 rating and LG was down 5 percent with a rating of 71. BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) came in low with a rating of just 69.

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