11:40 PM

Sprint, Verizon Lead Wireless Customer Satisfaction Index

AT&T and T-Mobile are bringing up the rear in ACIS's annual consumer survey.

The year 2010 represented a peak in recent years for the wireless industry in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACMI, but the scale has declined only 1.4% in 2011. Interestingly the biggest winners seem to be all of the smaller regional carriers that are categorized as "all other."

The ACSI released the results of its study Tuesday of U.S. wireless carriers. The index dropped to an aggregate 71 in 2011 from 72 last year. That is a small decrease, but still 9.2% above their 2004 scores, the year the survey began tracking the wireless industry. The ASCI scale is from 0 to 100.

Verizon, the 2010 leader, with a score of 73, dropped to 72 this year in its second year of decline, after peaking at 74 in 2009. Still, its 2011 score is enough for it to share first place with Sprint Nextel. Sprint is the one that has really been climbing. As recently at 2008 it had a low score of 56.

T-Mobile and AT&T didn't fare so well. The companies, which are in the middle of a proposed merger, showed declines slightly over 4%. Given the rough road ahead for the two carriers, especially if the merger is approved by the Federal Trade Commission, I suspect these years may be the highest ratings these two (or the newly merged company) see for a year or so.

With all of the legal and service requirements carriers impose on people, it isn't too hard to find someone that has a story rife with frustration. Mention something about your carrier to friends or co-workers and inevitably someone will chime in with their own horror story. You often hear tales of early termination fees, dropped calls, issues with service, and more.

My current favorite story is about a guy that has service with AT&T. Well, he has a contract with AT&T, but no actual service. The carrier's towers in his area failed and may not be up for several months. That's right -- months!. Rather than waive the early termination fee and let the customer go to someone else that has working towers, AT&T is sticking to the letter of the contract. Makes you wonder what happened to common sense doesn't it? It doesn't, however, make you wonder why AT&T is in last place among the big four for the second year in a row.

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