Apple: Only good. Dell: Poor and very poor

April 18, 2009, 2:50 PM UTC

Apple (AAPL) can take some satisfaction in the fact that it clobbered the Windows PC manufacturers in the customer experience survey released last week by Forrester Research (FORR) — but not too much satisfaction.

The fact is, the computer industry as a whole fared pretty badly compared with, say, retailers and hotel chains. And even high-scoring Apple was ranked 23 out of 113, trailing the likes of eBay, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The full report, available here (free registration required), is revealing. Some 4,500 U.S. consumers were asked about their interactions with a wide range of companies — from airlines to banks to insurance providers — and rate them according to their usefulness, ease of use and enjoyability.

Barnes & Noble, which scored the highest overall, was consistently rated “excellent,” as were Amazon, Target and USAA, which provides financial services for the armed forces and their families.

Apple, in the final tally, was merely “good.”

Drilling into the full report, we see that Apple did manage to score an “excellent” in ease of use — although just barely. It scored a solid “good” in usefulness. But in enjoyability, it was only “okay.”

Not that any of the other PC manufacturers came close. Where Apple’s overall score was 80% — some might call that a B minus  — Compaq, HP (HPQ), and Gateway ended up in D territory with between 63% and 66%. Dell (DELL) basically flunked with a “poor” 58% rating overall and a “very poor” 47% in enjoyability.

“I do think Microsoft’s software has a bit to do with it,” wrote the study’s author, Bruce D. Temkin. As a rule, he says, “consumers don’t distinguish problems with the operating system from problems with the PC manufacturer.”

“Bottom line,” writes Temkin, “the Windows ecosystem needs an extreme customer experience makeover.”

In the case of Dell, however, there was more going wrong than Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows. Temkin’s take: “Dell got so focused on operational efficiency that it lost sight of customer experience.”

But even Dell, at No. 93 on the list, looks pretty good compared with some of the Cable TV and Internet service providers. The ISPs are particularly well represented at the bottom of the list, with Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) Road Runner at No. 99, Comcast (CCS) at No. 105 and Charter Communications at No. 113.

Below the fold: the full list.