US customers are happier about IT than in recent years, according to the results of a study by the University of Michigan
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) measures the attitudes of consumers to PCs on a scale from zero to 100.
For the second quarter of 2004, the PC industry scored 74, which represents an improvement of 2.8% on last year and a four-year high.
Overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry has improved as suppliers renewed their focus on support and made technology easier to set up and use, said Claes Fornell, professor of business at the University of Michigan Business School and director of the ACSI.
Apple and Gateway recorded the largest improvements in customer satisfaction. With a score of 81, Apple's customers are the happiest.
Apple's success comes from a focus on innovation and improving support, Fornell said.
Just about every other PC supplier received technical support scores that were lower than their scores for the quality of their products: Apple was the only one that received high marks for both.
Gateway's standing has improved based on its acquisition of eMachines, Fornell said.
The company's products are now seen as having greater value because of the addition of eMachines' low-cost desktops and notebooks. Gateway scored of 74, in line with the industry average.
Dell's customers were only slightly less satisfied than Apple's, according to the index. The PC market share leader achieved a score of 79.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) managed slight improvements in customer satisfaction, but remains below the industry average.
The ACSI breaks down HP's scores for both HP-branded and Compaq-branded PCs, and both were below the industry average at 71 and 69, respectively.
Fornell blamed the integration efforts following HP's acquisition of Compaq for its troubles in maintaining customer satisfaction.
For some years before the merger the separate brands led the ACSI, but neither has regained the scores they achieved in the late 1990s, he said.
The ASCI identifies about 250 customers of each PC supplier and surveys them about their attitudes to their suppliers .
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service