Apple losing lead in phone tech support

Vocalabs Apple automated support call problem rates

An new study from Vocalabs finds that Apple’s telephone technical support still get the highest marks from consumers, but that companies like Dell and HP are catching up as Apple customers express more dissatisfaction with the automated portions of their calls. Vocalabs’ current survey found that 40 percent of customers reported a problem with the automated portion of their calls, a rate that’s nearly double the 21 percent reported a year ago.

“Apple used to be well ahead of the pack in tech support,” said Vocalabs CEO Peter Leppik, in a statement. “Now it would be fair to say that they are merely at the front of the pack. Apple used to lead on nearly every metric for support quality. Now there are several metrics where Apple is tied with its competition, or even trails.”

Apple’s actual human support agents continue to get top marks from respondents, with 77 percent of customers surveyed during the first six months of 2011 indicating they’re “very satisfied” with the live techs. In comparison, only 61 percent of HP customers gave the same level of satisfaction, and Dell came in with 56 percent.

However, during the automated portion of the call, only 24 percent of Apple customers indicated they were “very satisfied” with the experience—and that’s behind both Dell and HP, which garnered 36 and 40 percent “very satisfied” ratings from customers for the automated portion of their calls.

Overall, 58 percent of Apple customers were “very satisfied” with their entire support call, compared to 53 percent of HP customers and 47 percent of Dell customers. Apple’s overall satisfaction store was down 15 points compared to a year ago, where HP has managed to improve its score by 9 points in the last two years.

Vocalabs’ surveys are conducted via interviews immediately following a support call; this study’s data is based on 4,161 surveys between May 2008 and June 2011.