Best and Worst Cell Phone Carriers

Photo: JonJon2k8

According to a recent study from Consumer Reports, AT&T ranked at the bottom of the chart in customer satisfaction for the second year in a row. This is the result of the 2011 Consumer Reports’ poll of 66,000 of their online subscribers.

I found this a bit surprising. I had an iPhone with AT&T for years and generally found its service to be pretty good. The data package was a bit spotty, but everything else was good. And with AT&T, you can talk on the phone and check your calendar or the Internet at the same time, which is a nice feature.

Nevertheless, AT&T swept the wireless provider category with the lowest possible CR rating in eight out of nine categories (the exception being texting service). These categories include value, voice service, data service, phone support, staff knowledge and resolution of issues. Among the problems, customers cite dropped calls, spotty service and poor customer service resolution. There are also complaints of questionable data charges being added to subscribers’ monthly bills.

Although AT&T customers continue to find problems with service in densely populated cities, and some rural areas, AT&T reports they made significant progress improving their network in 2011. In fact, they claim to have poured $20 billion into beefing up the network. They are confident that this investment will result in improved service and customer satisfaction. Time will tell.

Many of the searing complaints are centered on customer service issues when attempting to reach the call center for problem resolution. Improving network service should cut down on the need for some of these calls, but long waits on hold, multiple transfers and the overall unwillingness to resolve issues show that phone-based customer support has a long way to go.

The top ranking carrier did not include any of the four major companies. This may be because these carriers offer fewer frills, and therefore, customers have fewer problems to plague them. For customers who only call and text, this is possibly the way to go.

Overall Ratings

  • US Cellular with 84 (last year 82)
  • Verizon Wireless with 73 (last year 74)
  • Sprint with 72 (last year 73)
  • T-Mobile 67 (last year 69)
  • AT&T 59 (last year 60)

Sprint showed significant improvement in customer service over its 2010 ranking. This jump allowed them to outrank Verizon in some of the measurable areas of customer service.

AT&T’s exclusive deal with Apple and the iPhone is at an end. IPhone lovers will now have more choices. Next year’s Consumer Reports’ survey should be interesting.

Published or Updated: February 2, 2012

Comments

  1. Choosing a cell phone carrier is such a headache! There are companies that offer unlimited everything plans for a very low monthly fee (metropcs, simple mobile) but the network isn’t as large as the major companies’ network. They are a good alternative for people who do not travel often.

    Stay young and thrifty :)

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