In light of deal, AT&T, T-Mobile customer satisfaction plummets

ATT-t-mobile-AT&T-tmobile-logo-merger-saleIn the wake of a proposed $39 billion merger, customers have become increasingly unhappy with AT&T and T-Mobile, according to a recently published report of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which shows a “larger deterioration” in customer satisfaction with the two wireless providers during the first quarter of 2011.

On the ACSI’s scale of 0 to 100, customer satisfaction with T-Mobile fell 4 percent to a 5-year-low, from an ACSI score of 73 to 70; AT&T’s status also dropped 4 percent to a score of 66, its worst score since 2006, a year before the release of the original Apple iPhone in 2007.

“It is common to find a reduction in customer satisfaction after mergers, but it is rare for customer satisfaction to drop ahead of a merger,” said ACSI founder Claes Fornell in a statement. “Assuming the deal is approved, it remains to be seen if a much larger AT&T can regain the strength of its customer relationships.”

AT&T and T-Mobile weren’t the only wireless companies to evoke dissatisfaction with customers. Verizon Wireless‘ ACSI score dipped 1 percent, for the second year in a row, to 72. That score ties with Sprint Nextel, whose numbers actually rose 3 percent this year, following a double-digit jump last year. Just three years ago, Sprint ranked as the most-hated wireless carrier among customers.

The score for smaller wireless carriers, TracFone and US Cellular, rose slightly to 77, which means their customers are the happiest of all wireless users.

According to the ACSI survey, which includes the opinions of 8,000 customers from around the country, overall customer satisfaction with the information industry, which also includes television, movies, computer software and the newspaper industry, is highly mixed.

Customer satisfaction with computer software surpassed all other information-related categories with a rise of 2.6 percent overall to an best-ever ACSI score of 78. That jump includes numbers for Adobe, Intuit and Symantec, all of which rose 3 percent, as well as a 3 percent boost for Microsoft. Despite a rise in satisfaction with Microsoft’s products — the third consecutive year the company has enjoyed such an upswing — customers are still buying less of it.

Satisfaction with newspapers stayed at the same dismal score of 65, the worse of all ACSI categories. Network and cable TV news improved 4 percent to 77, while feature films dropped 4 percent to a score of 73.