Ann Arbor Firm Finds Desktop PC's May Be Poised For Comeback

ANN ARBOR — Customer satisfaction with computing devices continues to slide, but desktop computers do better than laptops and tablets, according to a new report from Ann Arbor-based American Customer Satisfaction Index LLC.

The annual measure of personal computers fell 1.3 percent to 78 on the ACSI’s 0-100 point scale. Laptops fell the most, down 4 percent to 76, while tablets dipped 1 percent to 80. Desktops, though, gained 3 percent to take the lead at 81.

The ACSI Household Appliance and Electronics Report 2014
included three durable product categories: household appliances;
personal computers (including desktops, laptops and tablets); and TVs and video players. While PC satisfaction slipped, TVs became the highest-scoring category in the index, with a 1.2 percent rise to 86. Household appliances remained stable at 80.

The full report is available on the ACSI website at this link.

Mobile computing devices, like laptops, tablets and smartphones,
have adversely affected demand for desktop PCs, as consumers
postponed replacing older desktops in favor of mobile platforms. But declining user satisfaction and cooling demand for tablets suggest that tablet manufacturers have not kept up with consumer expectations.

Growing satisfaction with desktops and weakening satisfaction for
tablets and laptops might present an opportunity for computer makers to exceed buyer expectations with innovative desktop PCs — but only smaller manufacturers are succeeding in this regard, as all of the largest PC makers deteriorated.

Apple dropped 3 percent to 84, but maintained a sizable lead over its major competitors, which it has held since 2004. Nevertheless,
companies with a smaller market share, such as Samsung, Lenovo
and Asus, are closing in, having risen 8 percent to an ACSI score of 82. The large Windows-based manufacturers did not fare well in the latest survey. Dell declined 4 percent to tie Acer at 76, followed by Toshiba, down 4 percent to 75. Hewlett-Packard plunged 8 percent to the bottom of the category at 74.

“The increase in customer satisfaction for PCs could mean two
different things,” said Claes Fornell, a professor at the University of Michigan and founder of ACSI. “Either the product is seen as more attractive now and is poised for a comeback, or it has higher customer satisfaction simply because those who were less than happy with it have moved to other devices. If dissatisfied customers leave and satisfied customers stay, average satisfaction may well go up.”

As for household appliances, the overall score for manufacturers of
washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges and
ovens was stable at 80. This is a high score, but for individual
manufacturers it also implies a lack of differentiation and low pricing

Market-share leader Whirlpool topped the industry again with an ACSI score of 81. This year Whirlpool tied the aggregate of smaller
manufacturers, including LG, Samsung and Bosch. Electrolux, up 1 percent to 79, recovered slightly after a big drop last year, and was replaced by General Electric in last place after GE fels 4 percent to a company all-time low of 77.

“The sharp decline in customer satisfaction for GE raises some
concerns now that the company has agreed to sell its appliance
division to Electrolux,” says ACSI director, David VanAmburg. “The
acquisition will make Electrolux much bigger — rivaling Whirlpool for market share — but in light of GE’s weak customer satisfaction, it is questionable whether it will make the new entity better.”

Meanwhile, customer satisfaction with TVs and Blu-ray or DVD players improved 1.2 percent to an ACSI score of 86, an all-time high for the category that is the best among all industries tracked by the
ACSI. Lower prices and “smart” technology have propelled big-
screen TVs in particular to the highest levels of customer satisfaction.

The ACSI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The ACSI uses data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually as inputs to an econometric model for analyzing customer satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as over 100 services, programs, and websites of federal government agencies.

ACSI results are released throughout the year, with all measures
reported on a scale of 0 to 100. ACSI data have proven to be strongly related to economic performance. For example, firms with higher levels of customer satisfaction tend to have higher earnings and stock returns relative to competitors. Stock portfolios based on companies that show strong performance in ACSI deliver excess returns in up markets as well as down markets. And, at the macro level, customer satisfaction has been shown to be predictive of both consumer spending and GDP growth.

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