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Apple’s satisfied customers

For the seventh straight year, Apple has beaten out its competitors in the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). In fact, with a 2010 score of 86 out of a possible 100, Apple managed to achieve its highest ranking since the annual survey began in 1995.

The ACSI arrives at its results using a complex model which evaluates customer expectations, perceived quality and value, overall satisfaction with a company’s products, and ensuing customer loyalty. Apple’s record-breaking score puts it a full nine points ahead of its nearest rivals, which include Acer, Dell, HP and others. That’s the largest lead of any company over its competitors in any of the ACSI’s 45 different categories.

A number of special factors contribute to Apple’s stellar performance. It has a broad line-up of products that are unique but related, allowing the success of one product to confer a halo effect on the rest. It has a meticulously controlled retail environment, which means that customers can expect the same knowledgeable and enthusiastic service wherever they go. And the company has a high-profile, charismatic leader, who goes out of his way to instill confidence in the buying public.

Apple is also helped by controlling its own software. So many IT products fail because of poor software, but Apple, with iOS for the iPhone, iTunes, and Mac OS X, has total control over the customer experience. It also allows Apple to control the upgrade cycle, bringing products to market only when they are completely ready.

Although a number of hardware manufacturers have tried to imitate Apple’s products, particularly its success with the iPhone, none of its competitors have all the other customer-facing pieces in place. Perhaps Sony with its Sony Style stores comes closest on the retail side; and HP with its recent acquisition of Palm may look to offer a more integrated line of products.

But Apple shows no sign of slowing down. It has a big lead in the exploding tablet computer market with the iPad, and its new line-up of iPods will continue to crush the competition. Even its recent hiccup over the antenna problems associated with the new iPhone 4 might turn out to be a blessing in disguise, ensuring complacency is never an issue as it enjoys life at the top.

Are you an Apple fan? What sets Apple apart from its competitors? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!      

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