Verizon tops wireless customer care again in survey

J.D. Power survey also saw a huge jump in customers' calls to carriers over credit issues

For wireless customer care, Verizon Wireless came out on top for the second consecutive time in a J.D. Power and Associates semiannual survey of 9,500 customers who contacted their carrier in the last six months of 2009.

Verizon was closely followed by T-Mobile USA in the ratings, with AT&T third and Sprint Nextel in fourth. J.D. Power's rankings are considered some of the most significant in the industry, partly because the survey polls such a large number of customers.

The survey, conducted twice a year, ranks the carriers by awarding points for good performance, the perfect score being 1,000 points. The latest industry average is 739.

Verizon scored a 753 with T-Mobile just behind at 752, followed by AT&T at 733 and Sprint at 721.

Customer care is defined as how well the carriers service their customers through telephone calls with a live customer service representative or an automated response system, as well as in visits to a retail wireless store or via the Web.

According to recent company statements, Verizon has more than 91 million wireless subscribers, AT&T has more than 85 million, Sprint has more than 48 million, and T-Mobile has more than 33 million.

J.D. Power, in a statement, noted that Verizon service representatives performed well when identifying customer problems quickly and resolving them efficiently. T-Mobile performed well for calls that originated in the telephone automated response system and were transferred to a live representative.

While Sprint finished last of the four, a spokesman for the carrier noted it had improved by 17 points from the last survey in August, the largest improvement by any of the four carriers.

The average score of 739 was up by 13 points in the last year, J.D. power noted. That's partly because more calls to reps, 77%, were resolved on the first contact, up from 66% in J.D.Power's similar survey from February 2009.

Customers with additional subscription plan features, such as extended handset warranties and unlimited calling group plans, reported higher satisfaction than customers with basic calling plans, the survey found. Part of the reason might be that unlimited usage plans would reduce the number of calls a customer would make for billing overages or incorrect billing, a J.D. Powers official said.

Probably because of the recession, the number of customer contacts pertaining to credit issues, such as overdue balances and credit extensions, increased by 50% in the last six months, the survey found.

Following conventional wisdom in the industry, the survey also found that smartphone owners are significantly more likely to have contacted a carrier in the last six months than traditional wireless phone owners — 49% to 40%, respectively. Likewise, smartphone owners were less likely to see the issue resolved on the first phone call, and it took smartphone owners three more minutes to get problems resolved than it took for owners of traditional cell phones.

J.D. Power also discovered that customers are more satisfied with their carrier when notified of potential problems by the carrier than they are when not informed in advance.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed @matthamblen or subscribe to . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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