Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile: Which Takes Best Care of Customers?

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Which of the big four wireless providers does the best job of taking care of its customers’ concerns?

A recent JD Power study reveals the top ranked full-service carriers when it comes to the way they handle customer issues. It also shows how clients prefer to contact their carrier for problem resolution.

The study accounted for almost 10,000 customers that reached out to their carrier’s customer-care department sometime in the last three months. AT&T led the way earlier this year, but two other carriers challenged it for the top spot this time around.

Disappointing news: Three of the four fared more poorly than they did just a few months ago.

A similar gallery covers business wireline satisfaction rankings for big telcos and cablecos.

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Businesses should note how important issue resolution is to their customers. A tiny fraction (5 percent) of the customers who reported minimal effort in getting their problems resolved said they are certain to choose a new carrier in the next year. But 41 percent of the respondents that reported "significant effort" on their part in addressing a problem said they will switch carriers.

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The study found a massive correlation between low overall satisfaction and long wait times for talking to a live representative. The respondents that said resolving issues took very little effort averaged 4.8 minutes of hold time and 8.1 minutes spent on the line overall. But those that reported going through "significant effort" to fix a problem averaged 10.6 minutes of waiting on the phone and 21.1 total minutes on the line.

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Customers indicated a marginal preference for using the phone to resolve a problem. The difference in satisfaction wasn't massive, but 56 percent of respondents said online resolutions take a lot of effort, followed by 54 percent for in-store resolution. Resolving the problem via a phone call took a lot of effort for 49 percent of respondents. Carriers must weigh the balance of call-center staffing demands with their higher satisfaction ratings.

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Social Media

There are nuances for the customers that get help using online tools. The study noted that customers had higher satisfaction levels (an average of 841 out of 1,000) when they used social media to address their problems, compared to those who used a different online method (an average of 792). Ratings for "knowledgeability," timeliness and first-contact resolution were higher for the social-media route, although it took slightly more time, according to the survey. However, the survey reported a decrease in customers using social media for resolution over the last year, from 8 percent to 5 percent.

Now we'll list four major full-service carriers, ranked on a 1,000 point scale. We have included the previous two volumes of JD Power's rankings as well.

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4. Sprint
  • 2017 Vol. 2 Ranking: 4th (723)
  • 2017 Vol. 1 Ranking:: 4th (744)
  • 2016 Vol. 2 Ranking: 4th (750)
Sprint has repeatedly trailed in these rankings. It is the only major carrier to fall below the average of 789. The company recently ponied up $13.7 million in unpaid access charges to CenturyLink after a U.S. Court of Appeals circuit ended an eight-year legal battle. There has also been speculation over Sprint merging with another carrier, although Charter recently shot down a rumor involving the cableco.

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3. T-Mobile
  • 2017 Vol. 2 Ranking: 3rd (795)
  • 2017 Vol. 1 Ranking: : 2nd (823)
  • 2016 Vol. 2 Ranking: 2nd (815)
T-Mobile is essentially in a dead heat with the top two carriers this time around. It dropped several points since the previous ranking, but all of the carriers scored a bit lower than last time. Plenty of analysts are suggesting that T-Mobile may merge with Sprint soon.
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2. AT&T
  • 2017 Vol. 2 Ranking: 2rd (796)
  • 2017 Vol. 1 Rankings: : 1st (827)
  • 2016 Vol. 2 Ranking: 1st (820)
AT&T led in the previous rankings, but its competitors have narrowed the gap — even overtaken the former Ma Bell. In other news, AT&T led the latest U.S. fiber penetration scorecard.

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1. Verizon Wireless
  • 2017 Vol. 2 Ranking: 1st (797)
  • 2017 Vol. 1 Rankings: : 3rd (816)
  • 2016 Vol. 2 Ranking: 3rd (797)
It's the only carrier on this list to not score lower this time than in 2016. Verizon has gone 1-2 with AT&T in practically all of the domestic carrier rankings we've covered. It took the top spot in JD Power's Business Wireline rankings.

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