Among major Web portals, Google led the pack again, despite dropping one point to 81 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index produced by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. Google has led the sector since 2002.
Computer manufacturers' overall score rose 4 points in the 100-point scale to 77, the highest since 1994, the study showed. The score of perennial leader Apple Computer jumped 2.5 points to a record 83, taking the company into the top 15 percent of all companies measured by the university.
Dell, which has been failing to meet Wall Street expectations and is battling a five-year low in stock prices, managed to raise its index 5.4 points to 78 -- an indication that better times may be ahead.
"It can be difficult to combine a cost efficiency strategy with superior customer service, but Dell's early results are headed in the right direction," Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "Short-term profits are almost always adversely affected when a company invests heavily in improved customer service. For Dell, the key will be sales growth, but not necessarily short-term profit growth."
Among the Web portals, Yahoo, which closed in on Google last year by hitting an all-time high in customer satisfaction, fell 5 points to 76. It was the company's worst performance in five years.
AOL and Microsoft MSN both scored 74, with the former increasing its score by more than 4 points and the latter falling more than a point. Since 2000, AOL has raised its score 32 percent, while MSN only 4 percent.
University of Michigan produces the ACSI in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group. ForeSee Results is the corporate sponsor for e-commerce and e-business measurements.