Macs still lead the ACSI survey as PCs go mobile and work goes remote

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index survey suggests Apple’s iconic leadership is narrowing. But there's more to what's going on than just that.

Apple, Mac, PC, PC sales, computer hardware, ACSI

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index data seems to show that Apple’s iconic Mac is losing a little luster in comparison to PCs from other makers, but I’m not entirely convinced.

Got to keep the customer satisfied

You see, the data shows Apple narrowly leads in the PC category (82% v. 79%). It also shows that some of Apple’s larger PC manufacturing competitors are gaining ground. Perhaps. But dig a little more deeply into the survey results and you'll find the biggest innovation across the industry in the last couple of years (other than the move to Apple Silicon) involves improvements in customer services, specifically in call centers. 

The survey also confirms that tablets and laptops continue to replace desktop PCs. In 2021, 24% of the survey group used desktops compared to 62% on laptops and 14% on tablet devices; in 2022 desktop users accounted for 20% of survey respondents, laptop users 64% and tablet use reached 16%. 

It will be interesting to see whether the incoming M2 and then M3 Macs will help Apple add a point or two to its many-years-long consumer satisfaction leadership in the ACSI survey.

How did manufacturers improve consumer satisfaction? The single biggest improved criteria contributing to the result was the aforementioned call center satisfaction. Not processors, not software, but improved customer communication. As a criterion in the context of our times, that makes complete sense.

Reach out and touch point me

During the pandemic, shortfalls in tech support call handling became huge problems for some manufacturers. In the absence of any in-person help, PC makers had to force themselves to improve their remote communication services, and this led inexorably to better customer response at call centers. They knew they had no other way to make a direct connection with their consumers.

[Also read: Review: Apple’s M2 MacBook Air]

If I’m right, then it’s understandable Apple didn’t see the same level of improvement in customer satisfaction levels across this time.

That’s because it already offered outstanding tech support — both in-person and remote — before the pandemic. While the company did tweak its approach a little since the crisis began, those tweaks could not make best better than it was. But the ACSI survey suggests other PC makers did improve.

That’s a welcome relief for PC users stranded on platforms other than the Mac, I suppose, but it is also noticeable that satisfaction with Microsoft’s software continues to decline, according to the same survey. (Microsoft’s ASCI computer software satisfaction fell from 76 in 2021 to 73 this year.) It’s got to be better to build platforms that don’t generate too many help request calls.

We all by now recognize that Macs consume far less IT support time than other platforms, which translates into real financial benefits in terms of the TCO of these machines. Microsoft’s decline also suggests Apple’s unique selling point around macOS should make for continued gains in market share.

That’s also what the sundry market survey data that’s crossed my desk in the last few weeks suggests. Yes, PC sales have declined, but Apple’s share of those sales continues to grow, and in terms of raw numbers, the company appears to be maintaining while the overall industry shrinks. Given the choice, most employees will continue to choose a Mac, and the latest ACSI survey does nothing but suggest this choice will prevail.

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