Customer Survey Notes Microsoft's Brand Revival

by: Joel West

Prof. Claes Fornell and his American Customer Satisfaction Index have come out with new quarterly satisfaction rankings for a variety of industries, two of them IT-related.

Here are the rankings for search

  • Google (NASDAQ:GOOG): 86%
  • Yahoo (YHOO): 77%
  • MSN (Microsoft: MSFT): 75%
  • Ask (IAC/Interactive Corp. IACI): 74%
  • AOL: 70%

Prof. Fornell’s commentary:

Google has led among portals and search engines for seven of the last eight years and this edge in user satisfaction is reflected in Google's dominance of the search market. Measured by query volume, Google does 74% of all search business on the Internet, with Yahoo! a distant second with 17% and Microsoft’s new entrant third with 7%. Bing has won early accolades among industry insiders, but even a recent collaboration by the two smaller rivals (Yahoo! Search is now powered by Bing) hasn't managed to put a dent in Google’s usage. Strong and stable customer satisfaction has also left Google’s share value more insulated than most companies.

Here are the rankings for personal computers

  • Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): 84% (down 1.2%)
  • Dell (DELL): 75%
  • Compaq (NYSE:HPQ): 74% (up 5.7%)
  • Gateway (Acer): 74% (up 2.8%)
  • HP (HPQ): 74% up 1.4%)

and Prof. Fornell’s commentary:

Customer satisfaction with PCs improved slightly after two years of decline, increasing 1.4% to an ACSI score of 75. Rising satisfaction among Windows-based machines drove the improvement. Dell was steady with an ACSI of 75, while Gateway improved 3% to 74. The aggregate of smaller manufacturers also improved 3% to 74. The HP division of Hewlett-Packard made a modest gain of 1% to 74, while the Compaq division surged 6%, also to a score of 74. The satisfaction of Apple PC customers retreated slightly (down 1% to 84), but the small decline has done nothing to hurt the large lead Apple has enjoyed for six straight years over the Windows-based PC manufacturers. In fact, Apple’s customer satisfaction lead is the second largest of any industry in ACSI—only Southwest Airlines' advantage over its closest rival is bigger.

…Despite the recession, Apple has posted strong financial results, with profits up 15% for the second quarter, and sales of Mac computers have increased, while competitors’ sales have shrunk.

As the recession has shifted demand for lower priced PCs, Hewlett-Packard has been rolling out less expensive Compaq laptops—consumers can now get a fully loaded Compaq notebook computer for less than $300. The emphasis on Compaq has driven up recent sales and HP's stock is up 20% since the beginning of 2009, more than double the market.

Surprise, surprise: success in the sale of commoditized Windows boxes has come from selling ever-cheaper commodity boxes. At the other extreme, Apple has more than 90% of revenues from computers priced over $1,000.

What I found surprising is that Fornell didn’t mentioned the role of Microsoft’s $300 million “I’m a PC” ad campaign (made on a Mac) in raising satisfaction of Windows machines across the board. The initial ads last fall emphasized “pride” in being part of the Windows clan, while this year the fetching actress Lauren De Long and her “laptop hunters” ad (recently revived by HP) have been brutally effective in identifying Apple’s price premium at a time in which buyers are pinching pennies.

The Windows brand revival story is a pretty clear one, particularly after they dropped the attempt to leverage Jerry Seinfeld’s popularity and got a little closer to their actual product attributes — cheap hardware, ubiquitous, lots of choice.

Disclosure: None