Consumers increasingly dissatisfied with PCs, tablets

Junkware, poor support, and slow processors are among consumers' top complaints about desktops PC, laptops, and tablets, according to a new survey that placed Apple at the top and Acer at the bottom of a consumer satisfaction ranking.

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PC and tablet makers aren't exactly wowing customers these days. For the third year in a row, consumer satisfaction with desktops, laptops, and tablets declined, according to the annual American Consumer Satisfaction Index.

Consumer complaints stretch across the board, but the nearly 3,000 people surveyed say the worst pain points are poor customer support, junky applications preloaded on new devices, and slow processor speeds.

Apple on top, Acer on bottom

Of the major manufacturers included in the survey, Apple once again led the pack with the highest overall satisfaction rating. Apple also received the best score among tablet makers, despite signs that the consumer love affairs with tablets is cooling off.

acsi chart ACSI

Amazon (reflecting tablet sales) and Dell (the only PC maker to receive a higher satisfaction score than last year), along with Samsung, which was included in the survey for the first time, ranked just behind Apple. 

All of the other vendors slipped in the rankings, or made a poor showing, during the past year. Lenovo, HP, Toshiba and Acer had the lowest scores. Acer not only ranked dead last, it saw the largest decline of any of the companies in the survey.

Based on the survey responses to questions about 10 categories related to laptops, tablets, and desktops, consumers are generally happiest with desktops, because they have less "junkware," are more stability, and have better graphics performance.

Poor tech support leads to unhappy customers

The lowest score in the entire survey related to tablet and laptop owners' dissatisfaction. I've followed the computer industry for decades, and I'm repeatedly struck by the poor tech support these companies offer their customers.

Few of the products these vendors sell are particularly cheap or simple to use. However, it is expensive to build call centers, and hire and train personnel. These things don't make a definitive contribution to revenue, let alone profits, so support gets skimpier all the time. (A recent unhappy experience I had with Lenovo support is a perfect example of this trend.)

For some reason, perhaps because desktops are easier to troubleshoot than other devices, owners of those products are significantly happier with call center support. And the huge number of apps available to tablet owners makes it particularly hard for support personnel to get to the bottom of problems on those devices, according to David VanAmburg, ACSI's director.

As hardware becomes more of a commodity, companies that offer good customer service will be rewarded with repeat buyers. You can argue about the quality of Apple support, but in general, it is head and shoulders above competitors, and the company's ACSI score shows it.

Amazon also has a solid support operation for its Kindle products. The one time I had an issue with mine, I got help in minutes late on a Sunday evening (for free), and the tech walked me through a fix in no time.

ACSI also looks broadly across many categories, and not surprisingly, the industries that received the worst consumer satisfaction reviews are ISPs, carriers, pay TV providers and the postal service.

The organization's most recent survey is based on 2,946 interviews, but ACSI says it draws those respondents from a pool of about 70,000 consumers, and it watches 300 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors.

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