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Rating the Carriers: Customer Service Showdown

Phones, coverage, and apps don't matter if you can't keep the customer happy. Find out how the carriers stack up.


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by Todd Haselton on September 25, 2009

nov_310_carriers_sh.jpgWhen you have a problem with your cell phone, it's not the same as temporarily losing your notebook's Wi-Fi connection; it's like losing contact with the outside world. You need help, and quick. Nationwide tech support that can come to your rescue anytime, anywhere, is key to the four major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Without good support, they lose customers.

This year, J.D. Power & Associates rated T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless highest in wireless customer care, with AT&T and Sprint trailing behind them. The same report revealed that 17 percent of customers who couldn't resolve their issue in two to three phone calls to customer service were likely to switch carriers altogether.

In a separate survey conducted by Yankee Group, data revealed that 83 percent of Verizon Wireless customers were satisfied with their carrier; T-Mobile and AT&T were close behind with 80 and 77 percent, respectively. But just 72 percent were satisfied with Sprint. It's worth noting that "satisfaction" could be a result of a combination of many factors, including handset selection or coverage areas. "Most consumers consider customer service an afterthought when choosing a carrier," said Carl Howe, director of research for Yankee Group. "They don't think up front about going with a carrier that has really great customer service; most consumers hope to never call." But the fact remains that most of us do rely on customer service at one time or another, whether it concerns technical issues, changes to our bill, or troubleshooting.

Picture it: You're on a business trip and your BlackBerry goes kaput. You have three choices: call tech support withanother phone, visit a retail store, or dig around on your carrier's Web site. During our undercover reporting, we found that the quality of support can vary drastically depending on your carrier, and which of these options you try. We visited brick and mortar stores twice, called each carrier twice, and searched online for answers to our tech support questions. Then we graded each experience and averaged the results for a verdict. How did your carrier fare?

As featured on "Into Tomorrow...with Dave Graveline", airing October 2, 2009!

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