John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

AT&T Ranked Last in Consumer Reports’ Best Cellphone Service Survey

The annual survey of wireless customer satisfaction from Consumer Reports hits the streets this week and it doesn’t have much good to say about AT&T. In a canvass of more than 50,000 readers spanning 26 U.S. cities, the organization found the carrier had the lowest customer-satisfaction rating in 19 cities surveyed; Verizon ranked highest.


To hear that AT&T (T) ranked dead last in customer satisfaction in high-profile markets like New York and San Francisco isn’t all that surprising. New Yorkers often carp about dropped AT&T calls, and complaints about lousy service in the Bay Area are legion.

But to find that the carrier placed last in 17 other cities as well suggests that AT&T’s shortcomings are more widespread than the carrier would have us believe and not simply the product of a high concentration of iPhones in the country’s larger cities.

As Pali analyst Walter Piecyk wrote in an investor note this morning, “We believe it has been an elitist investor view that only a few high profile AT&T markets are having problems on the theory that only ‘tech savvy’ residents of coastal cities would find enough use in the iPhone to impact the quality of AT&T’s network.”

It certainly would appear that way. With low marks for several key indicators of customer satisfaction–including service availability, circuit capacity, dropped-call frequency and voice service–across 73 percent of the markets Consumer Reports surveyed, it’s pretty clear that AT&T has become overextended by the popularity of the iPhone. Which is bad news for the carrier and, of course, for iPhone owners as well.

As Consumer reports notes, “Apple’s iPhones are the top smart phones in our Ratings–actually, among the best of all phones we tested, period–but their exclusive carrier, AT&T, was middling at best in satisfaction….If you’re readying to buy Apple’s phone, prepare for possible disappointment with its service and expect to love the phone anyway. Despite the network problems, a staggering 98 percent of iPhone users in our cell-phone-buying survey were satisfied enough to say they would definitely or probably buy the phone again. Only 79 percent of respondents who bought other cell phones said the same.”

Verizon (VZ), which has been mercilessly slamming AT&T’s service in a recent ad campaign, is going to have a field day with this. And somehow, I don’t think a hurriedly cobbled together Luke Wilson ad will undo the damage.

UPDATE: Reached for comment, AT&T had this to say about Consumer Reports’ findings, which, the company stressed, were based on anecdotal feedback from a self-selected group of subscribers: “We appreciate and value all customer feedback. We learn from it and it helps us serve our customers better. Without question the surest indication of customer satisfaction is churn, or turnover. For the last quarter, our postpaid churn was just 1.17 percent.”

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