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Wed Aug 20, 2008 6:26 am

Thursday, August 14th
Verizon ousts T-Mobile in support quality
Verizon has just edged out long-time champion T-Mobile in its ability to help cellular customers, according to the results of a new JD Power study. The research group gave the second-largest carrier the nod for a high score of 103 in the survey, which tracked both carriers' ability to provide an actual solution to a given problem on the phone, in person, or online, as well as the amount of hold time for phone help. Verizon is said to be especially noteworthy for resolving many more of its problems the first time where rivals sometimes require multiple sessions.

The win is narrow but deals a blow to T-Mobile, which has often been at or near the top of the rankings in recent years. Verizon's takeover prospect Alltel was second with a score of 102, while T-Mobile netted 100 points in the survey. The iPhone's sole official carrier scored significantly below these at 97, while Sprint isn't mentioned among the top carriers and has been restructuring its support after developing a reputation for below-average service.

JD Power's report produces mixed results and suggests an overall worsening of service, however. While the number of needed support requests per person has dropped since the last study, the firm notes that the increasing complexity of phones and their matching services is likely behind an increase in the amount of phone hold time over the years; where a customer waited 3.3 minutes in 2003, they now wait 4.4 minutes, or a third longer than they did before. The number of customers calling in for help has also climbed from 47 percent to 49 percent year-over-year, with just over a third (34 percent) calling about hardware problems.

About 83 percent of customers who quit their carriers have had to spend a long time on hold, the report adds.

The results underscore concerns raised about phone exclusives such as the iPhone and Samsung Instinct, which are often marketed to get customers to switch but often require contracts that make it expensive to leave if customer service or other aspects of service prove sub-par. Most carriers have voluntarily implemented pro-rated fees to head off possible government regulation of cancellation costs.
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