Macs take reliability, support prize

Fewer Apple customers call third-party service shops, says third-party service shop

Apple's computers are the most reliable and its support the most dependable of the five top vendors, a U.S. national chain of computer service shops said this week.

Macs beat machines built and sold by Lenovo Group, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Dell, according to Rescuecom's second annual reliability report. Apple, which took the second spot last year, blew away the competition this year by posting a score of 51% higher than next-best Lenovo.

To come up with its scores, Rescuecom compared the percentage of each company's support calls with its market share, said Rescuecom CEO David Milman. The greater the difference, the higher the score, and the better the hardware and follow-up OEM support. Apple, for example, received the highest score because Macs made up only 1.4% of all calls to Rescuecom, even though its estimated market share was 5% for the year. Dell machines, on the other hand, accounted for 34.5% of all Rescuecom's incoming calls, which was higher than the company's 32.3% market share.

"It takes into account not just the quality and reliability of the equipment," said Milman, "but also the quality of service." The two are equally important, he said. "If a user is calling Rescuecom, that means they've abandoned the manufacturer's own support."

Apple led the five vendors with a score of 347, followed by Lenovo/IBM (236), HP (126), Gateway (103) and Dell (94).

"Apple's score tells me that it has both great quality control and great support in place," said Milman. "And that Apple is taking care of its customers though its internal support channel." Unlike the other four vendors, Apple has its own retail chain, whose stores are manned with customer support personnel, dubbed Apple Geniuses.

Dell, on the other hand, is now at the bottom of Rescuecom's scoring system, having slipped from last year's fourth place to fifth this year. "Dell faces some challenges to deliver quality products and quality services," said Milman. "The probability is certainly higher that a customer will have problems with a Dell than with an HP or a Lenovo [computer]."

Dell has had problems meeting customer demand for some laptops, and has seen its once high-flying service and support reputation drop. In August, for instance, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), a barometer of customer satisfaction produced at the University of Michigan, pegged Dell's score as down four points from the previous year.

"Dell isn't going anywhere," said Milman. "They still have good machines. But over the long run, you're more likely to have a problem with Dell."

In the same ASCI of August, Apple scored 79, the highest among the seven makers and/or computer lines, but like Dell, also down four points from 2006.

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Gregg Keizer

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