Google, Apple Rank Highest With Customers

Despite its strong ranking, Apple was the only computer company to see its position drop since last year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Customer satisfaction for Google as a Web portal and search engine far outranks its competitors, according to an annual study. For the second year in a row, Google scored 86 out of 100 in the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index, while its closest competitor, Yahoo, trailed at 77.

And in the PC industry, Apple remains on top this year with a score of 84, which is nine points higher than its closest rival, Dell. Apple's score was down 1% from the previous year.

The index, published each year, is developed with data drawn from interviews with 70,000 customers nationwide of products and services.

In the Web portal and search engine area, companies trailing Yahoo on customer satisfaction include MSN (with a score of 75), (74), and AOL (70). The surveys were conducted before Microsoft launched the Bing search engine into the market in May.

The rankings portend "a very difficult road ahead" for Bing, since the study has proved to be a good predictor of future market success, according to a report published by Larry Freed, CEO of consulting firm ForeSee Results. For example, Google scored a 10% jump in customer satisfaction in 2008, followed by a 7% increase in search market share in 2009.

"Where will Bing's market share come from? From Yahoo and MSN initially and maybe from, though Ask is a niche player with stable customer satisfaction and market share," Freed wrote. "But it seems unlikely that customers will actually leave Google in enough numbers to allow Bing to seriously challenge Google's market dominance, given Google's extremely high customer satisfaction."

Customer satisfaction rankings for the top five Web portal companies had not changed since last year. But Google hasn't always been tops in satisfaction: in 2007, Google, with 78 points, trailed Yahoo, with 79.

Overall, customers were 2.8% more satisfied with the Web portal/search industry than they were last year; the "e-business" category achieved an average score of 81.5. The category is up to 29.4% since 2000, supporting the fact that people are increasingly turning to the Internet as a source of information.

Meanwhile, customer satisfaction with the overall PC category was up 1.3% to 75 this year, primarily due to improved satisfaction with Windows PCs. Compaq's score was up 6% to 74; Gateway's up 3% to 74; and Hewlett-Packard's was up 1% to 74. Dell's score was 75, the same as last year.

Even though Apple remained far ahead of the pack at 84, it was the only one of the top five brands to see a decline in its customer satisfaction score.
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