Are you happy with your recently-purchased computer? If not, you’re in good company. Consumer satisfaction with laptops and desktops has been sliding for a couple of years now, and PCs made by Hewlett-Packard are drawing the most ire, according to the latest edition of the University of Michigan’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index.
Even Apple, generally a consumer favorite, lost points on the index, though it still maintains a sizable lead over major competitors — a lead it’s held since 2004. Every major brand of Windows PC slipped on the 100-point index. Surprisingly, though, the manufacturers of Windows PCs who have a smaller share of the market, including Samsung, Lenovo and Asus, received slightly better than average scores from consumers.
That last number is probably the key takeaway from the survey. It’s easy to overlook some of the less popular brands, but consumers have generally rated the group fairly high since ACSI began its surveys in 1994. That’s not to say they’re necessarily better machines, but consumers seems to like them.
It’s hard to draw any conclusions from HP’s poor performance. The data released by ACSI isn’t detailed enough to show what HP is doing wrong, but it should raise a yellow caution flag for shoppers. The company’s scores have been below the industry average for three years.
The survey covered a lot of ground, asking buyers to rate their satisfaction on ten separate benchmarks, including design, availability of software and accessories, ability to keep crashes to a minimum, processor speed, graphics and sound performance, and ease of use.
By and large those attributes were rated fairly high, but consumers dinged the industry for the quality of its websites and call centers, which is hardly a surprise.
Personal computers, including desktops, laptops and tablets, slipped just a bit this year, down about 1.3 percent to a total score of 80. HP, the worst performer in the survey, had an overall score of 74, a drop of eight percent from last year; Toshiba and Dell, both of which have deemphasized their consumer businesses, were each off four percent; Apple slipped three percent, but still leads the pack with a score of 84; and Acer dropped one percent, a statistically insignificant change.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data to break out the individual scores of the smaller brands, but as a group they scored 82, higher than any of the Windows manufacturers and behind only Apple.
Indeed, we don’t really know why consumers are becoming unhappy with their PCs. One thought: Perhaps the increasing use of tablets and smartphones have changed people’s expectations about their digital devices and old-school PCs don’t measure up. Just a guess.
ASCI regularly taps a pool of 70,000 consumers to gauge their opinions on a wide variety of products and topics. For this particular survey, ACSI interviewed 1,400 consumers who purchased a PC within the last three years.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.