Customers are satisfied with Apple according to a study from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Apple came second to Dell in a second quarter ASCI report that measures consumption experience. Apple scored 73 out of a possible 100 points for customer satisfaction – lagging three points behind Dell's 76. Gateway came third acquiring 72 points, while Hewlett-Packard notched up fourth position with a score of 71.

Despite not making any gains compared to the year ago period, Apple was the only company in the group not to see a rating dip.

Satisfaction Apple has increased customer satisfaction from lows experienced some years ago, concludes Professor Claes Fornell from the University of Michigan Business School. He adds: "Though the score is unchanged from a year ago, Apple has increased customer satisfaction since its low points in 1997 and 1998. It also enjoys a fairly high level of customer loyalty."

ACSI scores for the PC industry suggest a correlation between customer satisfaction and loyalty – as satisfaction increases by a point, customer retention increases by one per cent.

So, despite Dell's winning score of 76 points for the second quarter 2002, this score decreased from previous years "suggesting that the repeat customer to Dell is now some what more price sensitive and more open to competitive offers".

Fornell draws parallels between Apple's maintained ACSI ranking and it's first quarter 2002 revenues, and rivals' poor results and loss of ACSI points:

"For the first quarter of 2002, Apple posted a revenue increase of four per cent and a net income of $40 million. The lower scoring ACSI PC-makers Compaq (68, down one per cent) and Gateway (72, down one per cent) had difficulties. During the first quarter, Gateway's shipments fell 30 per cent and Compaq's 13 per cent."

ACSI scores are based on data obtained from more than 70,000 telephone interviews with consumers.