Sprint makes big leap forward in customer satisfaction survey

Despite improvements, Sprint remains last among major U.S. wireless carriers

Sprint's mission to improve its customer satisfaction is starting to pay off, suggests a new study published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Sprint's mission to improve its customer satisfaction could be starting to pay off, suggests a new study published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

The ACSI, which is published quarterly by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, finds that Sprint's customer satisfaction rating has surged upward by 12.5% over its customer satisfaction rating last year. In last year's study, the ACSI reported that Sprint had hit rock bottom in its customer satisfaction ratings as it fell to an all-time low score of 56 on a 100-point scale.

Sprint's improvement in customer satisfaction still leaves it last among major U.S. wireless carriers, as its rivals Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T all reported having higher customer satisfaction rates. Additionally, the ACSI speculates that a good portion of Sprint's higher rating is "probably due to the fact that many dissatisfied customers have defected" to other carriers.

Even so, the improvement in customer satisfaction should be welcome news for Sprint, which has made improving customer service a key goal of its turnaround plan. Over the past couple of years, the company has been stricken by major customer losses in its wireless services and it reported losing more than 4 million wireless customers in 2008 alone.

Sprint's improvement in customer satisfaction now puts it within striking distance of AT&T for third place on the ACSI's customer satisfaction survey. In the newest survey, AT&T saw its ratings drop by 5.6% from last year and the ACSI speculates that the drop may have been caused by the influx of new users who signed on with the carrier because of the iPhone.

"Many of the new customers are different from the regular AT&T customer in that they seem to have more data-intensive needs," the ACSI says. "The problem is not the iPhones themselves, but rather that the influx of new users seems to have strained AT&T Mobility's network."

Verizon Wireless is still the top carrier in the survey, as its customer satisfaction grew by 2.8% over the past year. T-Mobile remained steady over the past year and its customer satisfaction rating places it second among major U.S. wireless carriers.

Overall, the ACSI creates customer satisfaction indexes for 10 economic sectors consisting of more than 200 companies. Each company's ACSI is based on a sample of at least 250 customer interviews, and the ACSI conducts more than 65,000 customer interviews each year.

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