AT&T drops more calls, satisfies fewer customers

In a report that is surprising to no one (except perhaps AT&T), ChangeWave research says a March survey of smartphone users indicates that AT&T has, by far, the highest rate of dropped calls and lowest rate of customer satisfaction among the more than 4,000 surveyed.

While AT&T tied with T-Mobile at 23% for customers that say they are “very satisfied” by their service, Sprint/Nextel outranked thm at 35%, and Verizon came in at 49%. Verizon also ranked lowest for dropped calls at 1.5%, with Sprint and T-Mobile coming in at 2.4% and 2.8% respectively. AT&T came in the highest at a still low-sounding 4.5%, a rate that has to be adjusted by users outside the New York Metro area. (I would personally say one in five of my calls is dropped or “fails” on a good day.)

It seems AT&T leans heavily on its iPhone exclusivity to compensate for abysmal customer satisfaction rates- according to ChangeWave, though several customers expressed dissatisfaction, few seem to be planning a switch in the next three months:

At the provider level, 7% of Verizon’s customers and 8% of AT&T’s say they’ll switch. Sprint/ Nextel (10%) and T-Mobile (14%) lag behind the two industry leaders.

AT&T’s low churn rate – despite its relatively poor Very Satisfied rating and its high percentage of dropped calls – is attributable to the huge advantage it continues to maintain as the exclusive U.S. service provider for the Apple iPhone.

The survey also indicates that between 49-53% of users are “very or somewhat likely” to grab themselves an iPhone if the opportunity presented itself on their carrier. AT&T is not in agreement with the survey’s findings, and commented to Ars Technica about the results:

“The opinions compiled in this survey are dramatically at odds with actual quantitative results derived from millions of calls made during extensive drive-testing of the AT&T mobile broadband network by a highly respected outside firm,” spokesperson Seth Bloom told Ars. That number nationwide is 1.44 percent, and that survey showed AT&T just 0.2 percent away from the market leader. “In fact, the statistically valid drive tests shows the AT&T network continues to deliver the nation’s fastest 3G network and near best-in-class call retainability nationwide,” Bloom noted.