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It looks like AT&T(s t) unseating Verizon(s vz)(s vod) in J.D. Power’s customer service rankings earlier this month wasn’t a mere fluke. On Thursday, J.D. Power announced AT&T has taken the top spot in its consumer purchase experience poll, replacing its long-time occupant Sprint(s s).
That means, according to J.D. Power’s well-respected and often-cited study, AT&T is scoring highest among consumers in both the experience of buying a phone and mobile service and in customer service long after the initial sale. The study polled 8,693 U.S. mobile customers and tracks everything from online and in-store buying to plan and device pricing and the appeal of its promotional offers.
There were some mitigating factors in the first six months of the year – the period of J.D. Power’s study. Namely Sprint shut down its Nextel iDEN network, forcing millions of subscribers to sign up for new service and devices on its CDMA network or find another carrier. Sprint also took over U.S. Cellular’s territories in Chicago and St. Louis(s usm), which triggered another forced customer migration.
Those moves probably produced a lot of disgruntled customers, hurting Sprint in the ranking. The carrier dropped to number three just behind Verizon Wireless, while T-Mobile(s tmus) was at the bottom. Sprint’s no-contract brand Boost Mobile, however, maintained its No. 1 rank among prepaid operators.
As competition for consumers’ attention heats up before the holidays, AT&T is sure to publicize these rankings to the hilt. Overall mobile subscriber growth in the U.S. has slowed to a near standstill, which means carriers are forced to grow by stealing customers from one another. These rankings could make quite the attractive lure.