Verizon tops wireless customer care again in survey

For wireless customer care, Verizon Wireless came out on top for the second consecutive time in a J.D. Power and Associates semi-annual 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 ratings are considered among the most significant in the industry partly because of the large number of customers surveyed.

The survey, conducted twice a year, ranks the carriers on a scale with 1,000 points as perfect. The latest survey put the industry average at 739.

Verizon finished at 753; T-Mobile just below at 752; 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 through an automated response system as well as 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 of the carriers.

The average of 739 for customer care for all the carriers 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 customer care than customers with basic calling plans, the survey found. Part of the reason might be because 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, as opposed to traditional wireless phone owners, are significantly more likely to have contacted a carrier in the last six months, by 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 see problems resolved than it did for owners of traditional cell phones.

J.D. Power also discovered that customers are more satisfied with their carrier when informed by the carrier of potential problems than 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 mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Knowledge Center.

This story, "Verizon tops wireless customer care again in survey" was originally published by Computerworld.

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