Apple's secret weapon for iPhone 5: satisfaction

Apple [AAPL] may face a perfect storm of opposition from its flexible foes in the smartphone space; has problems realizing some of its ambitions -- television, for example; but it has a secret weapon which could fuel its future in the space -- its customers love their iPhones.

[ABOVE: iPhone 5 cases are already available in China.]

Got to keep the customer satisfied

That’s really important because with the company set to introduce iPhone 5 next week, its achievements in creating customer satisfaction should translate into lots of iPhone 5 users when the device ships.

This morning we see yet more evidence of the company’s achievement when it comes to keeping its customers satisfied -- it ranks top in the reputable JD Power smartphone satisfaction survey as it has done consistently eight times in a row.

The iPhone excelled in every category, but scored particularly highly for design and overall ease of use. On a 1,000 point-scale the iPhone ranked at 848, way above closest competitor, HTC (790-points). 

The Apple smartphone sets the average -- its score is so much greater than any competitor the study average figure is 783, a number exceeded only by Apple and HTC. Samsung scored 782-points.

According to the study, easy access to social media and games helped build customer satisfaction. Iin order of importance, the key factors of overall satisfaction with smartphones are: 

  • Performance (33%); 
  • Physical design (23%); 
  • Features (22%); 
  • Ease of operation (22%).

Customer satisfaction is the business

These statistics are perfectly in tune with other published studies exploring just how happy customers are with their Apple phones. In May Vocalabs found Apple to have the best customer support service.

"Apple customers leave the support call experience very satisfied, far more so than most other of the companies surveyed," reported MacNN.

In December a Changewave survey also confirmed Apple’s big advantage in making its customers happy. 

The big take-away from these new figures is that when it comes to delivering on the promises made in smartphone marketing, Apple so far has remained the company most able to live up to the promises it makes.

Android device manufacturers appear less committed to delivering on customer demand -- this is reflected in the resale value of their devices in comparison to those from Apple. Apple’s devices tend to be passed down the line within families, while those from other vendors are more like commodities, used for a year or two and then quietly abandoned, leaving customers less satisfied than they might be if they’d opted for an iPhone.

Will Apple exceed expectations?

That commodification of the product is, of course, Android's great philosophical flaw -- they see their devices as little more than products, while Apple understands the value of a pristine experience.

With smartphone sales growth slowed as customers save to purchase an iPhone 5, it appears that the company could deliver on predictions it may sell as many as ten million of the new devices within the first month. 

It’s also possible the company may exceed the 170 million unit sales it’s expected to make in the next 12 months, particularly if it succeeds in driving home its customer satisfaction message and in reaching a deal to offer the device via China Mobile.

As far as I can tell, the biggest obstacles to Apple’s success include:

  • Continued litigation from the now market dominant Android sector and continued quiet proxy patent battles on the part of search engine behemoth, Google.
  • Problems sourcing components in sufficient quantity to meet previously unseen levels of demand.
  • That the phone doesn’t inspire consumers on its release.
  • That the device carries one or more unresolvable hardware flaws.

We’ll be seeing more on this story next week when Apple introduces the new device on September 12.

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