Apple's e-store satisfaction score jumps, thumps Microsoft's

Only Amazon scores higher, says U.S. consumer survey

Apple's online store scored the highest satisfaction rating of any computer-related company, and handily beat rival Microsoft, a consumer pollster said today.

Apple's satisfaction score -- how happy U.S. consumers were with the their shopping experience at the company's online outlet -- was 85, up five points from the year before, said Michigan-based ForeSee.

ForeSee measured customer satisfaction using a survey of almost 21,000 visitors to the top 100 online sales sites as ranked by annual revenue. The newest poll was the eighth in an annual line that stretches back to 2005.

Only one e-store -- Amazon's, with a record score of 89 -- beat Apple's, although QVC's, the site associated with the popular television shopping channel, tied with the Cupertino, Calif. computer and consumer electronics maker.

Apple even closed the gap on Amazon, which ForeSee said "continues to set the standard for e-retailers," getting within four points in this year's survey compared to lagging behind by six points in 2011.

And the satisfaction surge by Apple's online store put it even further ahead of all comers in its category, beating the e-marts of Dell, with 80; Hewlett Packard, with 79; and Sony, Microsoft, each with 78.

Last year, for example, Apple beat second-place computer makers Dell and HP by just one point, and Sony by five points. ForeSee did not measure customer satisfaction last year for Microsoft's online store.

Apple also beat a number of online retailers that do not manufacture computers or other technology, but simply sell what's made by others. Newegg, the nearest rival in that group, scored 82, while others, such as BestBuy (80), TigerDirect (79) and PC Connection (74), were further behind.

The average score for the 10 computer and electronics retailers ForeSee measured was 79, just a point above the average for all 100 stores.

According to Larry Freed, the CEO of ForeSee and the author of a detailed report on the satisfaction findings, scores of 80 or higher, although still considered "the threshold of excellence," are becoming more common.

"Now that the average for the top 100 retailers is 78, a score of 80 is less impressive than it was five years ago, when the average was 74," Freed acknowledged. "Still, if we were to include thousands of e-retailers from large to small, scores of 80 or higher would no doubt emerge as being notably high."

ForeSee owns the technology developed by the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a noted annual customer satisfaction project, and uses the ACSI methodology to calculate its scores.

The complete report can be downloaded from ForeSee's website, although users must provide name, company, phone number and email address to access the PDF document.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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