Service and Support Satisfaction for Laptops and Smartphones 2021: Who offers the best service in the US?
More often than not, we get many requests from readers to include the nature of service and support from manufacturers as part of our review process. While there is definitely good reason to have such an evaluation, the sheer number of factors and their permutations and combinations involved in causing hardware or software defects pose a serious challenge. Also, standardizing of faults across OEMs is difficult considering the variations in design and device classes. Therefore, most service and support assessments are limited to checking off a few boxes on defined criteria and are ranked accordingly without actually considering the outcome of the service.
To workaround this limitation, we have decided to survey our readers themselves to get better data on the kind of services offered by OEMs, understanding their views on the services offered, and visualizing the results to get a better perspective.
For a better perspective, we encourage our readers to also peruse our last three years' surveys at the links below:
Data source: Experiences from our readers
We offered online questionnaires for data collection on our German and English language websites. The questions were multiple-choice, mostly with respondents having to choose between one and five points. Participation was voluntary, of one's own accord and without any considerations (such as raffles or similar) as well as without the need for registration. A total of 971 readers took part this year.
In contrast to last year's survey, this year, we made a distinction between the participants' origins based on specific countries: The choices were "Germany/Austria/Switzerland", "USA/Canada", "UK", "India", and "Other" (cf. 2020: "Europe", "North America", "Asia", "Other"). For this analysis, we used only the data of those participants who stated that they came from the US or Canada, which gives us 152 data records. You can read the evaluation for participants from Germany here.
According to our survey results, the most frequently indicated brands were HP (25.3%), Dell (21.2%), Apple (17.8%) and Lenovo (17.8%). HP seems to have the highest percentage of consumer laptops within its own brand, followed by Apple and Dell. For business laptops, Lenovo, Dell, and HP were the most preferred choices in that order. Asus looked to be the dominant choice when it came to gaming laptops, while Apple had the highest participation rates for smartphones.
Among the brands themselves, HP and Dell recorded the largest share of participants who said they had made use of an extended warranty, ahead of Apple and Lenovo. New this year was our question about the predominant use of the devices. Here, Apple, HP, and Lenovo recorded the highest proportion of predominantly personal use, while Dell laptops were preferred for professional use. Asus seems to have the highest share of devices that are mainly used for gaming. The distribution in terms of the type of service offered is also quite interesting. While sending-in the device dominates for most manufacturers, Dell appears to have repaired almost two-thirds of the devices on site.
In the following sections, we would like to go into the results of the individual questions. Do note that we can only analyze certain correlations here for the sake of clarity and comprehensibility. The complete data, however, is available with the editorial team.
Telephone hotline: Quick help or a waste of time?
The first contact with the manufacturer is usually via a telephone hotline or a toll-free number. In our survey, we distinguish between three areas of evaluation — waiting time, comprehensibility, and problem-solving ability. We summarize these for the sake of clarity and evaluate them equally.
The survey results showed close to 75% of the respondents indicating that they were very satisfied with with Apple's telephone support. Lenovo seems to be doing good here as well with nearly 50% of the combined responses of scales 4 and 5 denoting a fairly good telephone support. However, an almost equal part of the chart shows there's ample scope for Lenovo to improve on this aspect.
Dell looks to be comparatively better than Asus when it comes to higher satisfaction rates with on-call support. Asus clearly needs to improve its telephone support system, which seems to be have lowered overall compared to last year.
Timing of laptop or smartphone repair
This year, we see HP having the highest number of repairs within warranty and among the lowest repairs during extended warranty and beyond the warranty period. Asus comes a close second in terms of warranty servicing, but it seems the manufacturer's warranty extension program does not have any takers in our survey. Thus, owners of Asus notebooks seem to have undertaken a higher number of out-of-warranty services compared to Dell and Lenovo.
Apple, however, looks to have serviced the least number of devices in an extended warranty and the maximum number of repairs were outside the warranty period.
Procedure for mail-in or on-site repair
In the event of repair, the device is usually picked up by a logistics service, sent to the service center directly by the customer, or repaired on-site by an authorized technician. We evaluated the responses for ease of sending the device for mail-in service or getting it done on-site.
Based on the responses received, it looks like our readers felt HP's repair process to be the most complicated of them all followed by Asus. More than 80% of the respondents felt Apple to be the easiest to deal with, which is a significant improvement from last year. Nearly 75% of the respondents indicated Lenovo's mail-in and on-site process is simple, which is a sizeable improvement over the previous year's responses in which only 25% of our readers indicated likewise. Dell's pattern is similar to what we've seen previously, but Asus's ease of sending in for repairs seems to have taken a beating this time around.
Repair time: Who repairs the fastest?
A quick turnaround time for repairs is necessary for a satisfactory service experience. According to our survey, nearly 75% of HP's and Asus's repairs seem to have taken longer than 14 days while Dell leads the responses for single-day repairs. Apple seems to have taken at least a week for repairs on an average. Lenovo's turnaround time seems to be distributed evenly across the given timelines and is a good improvement over last year.
Satisfaction with the repair
While quick turnaround times are welcome, the provided service should also be satisfactory to the customer. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The responses to our survey indicate HP's service to be the least satisfactory followed by that of Asus's. Coupled with the long turnaround times indicated above, this indeed is an area we hope both these companies focus on.
Lenovo customers seem to be quite satisfied with the service while Dell seems to have dropped in terms of the "very satisfied' percentage compared to the previous year. Apple, however, has the highest number of satisfied users despite generally having a longer service duration.
Repair attempts: A true test of patience
Another important consideration during service is the number of attempts taken by the manufacturer to successfully address the complaint. For the most part, we see most manufacturers being able to resolve the issue in the first attempt itself. However, HP seems to be getting it right only after attempting the service three times or more.
Asus is able to achieve repair satisfaction in the 1st and 2nd attempts for the most part. While Dell is generally able to cater to service requirements in the first attempt itself, we also see that users have had to opt for quite a significant number of multiple repair attempts. Lenovo takes a clear lead among non-Apple OEMs when it comes to offering a satisfactory first time repair attempt.
The percentage of first time satisfactory repair attempts, however, seems to have reduced across the board for all manufacturers compared to last year with the exception of Lenovo, which has shown an improvement.
Overall service experience
Finally, we looked into how our readers gauged the overall service experience across different OEMs. The results reflect the earlier findings above. HP and Asus have the lowest service satisfaction levels as per our respondents. Dell seems to be a mixed bag with different levels of satisfaction while Lenovo has improved considerably in reducing the "not satisfied' criteria. Apple's service standards have resulted in a "very satisfied" rating among nearly 75% of the customers, showing a perceivable improvement over last year.
Conclusion: Which manufacturer offers the best support?
We would like to re-iterate that this not a test of service and support. The data for this analysis comes from our own survey (sample size for US/Canada was 152 records) in which readers (probably predominantly laptop enthusiasts) were asked to share their service and support experiences with the brands they use. That being said, it is not uncommon to find disappointed customers being more vocal about their displeasure compared to those who have had a mostly positive experience. Also to be noted here is that 2020 has been a tough year for OEMs owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means service turnaround times can be expected to take longer than usual. These must be factored-in while interpreting the results.
The main idea of this survey is to identify trends, which can indicate the current overall service and support scenario from an end-users perspective, and the above interpretation is being done accordingly. While interpreting the results, we also assume that the level of participation from respondents is more or less the same for all brands.
In these times of remote working, having access to technology at all times is very essential. It is hard to predict when things can go wrong, so having access to proper, satisfactory, and timely service and support is required for a worry-free computing and mobile experience.
Overall, we find Apple to offer the highest satisfaction among the responses we received even if it comes at the expense of a longer turnaround time. We are seeing trends where OEMs such as Lenovo are showing good improvements from last year, which is an indication that the manufacturer has taken the feedback seriously. We hope Lenovo continues to improve on this aspect in the future. Dell also looks to be doing good with a fast turnaround time and overall decent satisfactory levels.
Asus, though being the preferred OEM brand among gaming laptops, needs to improve its credibility when it comes to service and support in most of the parameters we surveyed. HP leads the consumer laptop segment but if the survey results are anything to go by, the company needs to improve significantly when it comes to service quality. The fact that things haven't improved much since last year is surely a reason for concern.
The importance of having a good customer service can only be felt when things take a turn for the worse. In order to minimize down times, improve productivity, and reduce frustration, it is imperative that an appropriate service contract is chosen that offers flexible, timely, and satisfactory support.