AT&T's customer loyalty questioned

Wireless provider AT&T has seen mixed reviews lately regarding its customer service.

Wireless provider AT&T has seen mixed reviews lately regarding its customer service. According to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Wireless Customer Care Full Service Study - Volume 1, the company ranked near the bottom among the three other major mobile carriers - Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

Specifically, based on J.D. Power's 1,000-point scale, AT&T finished with a score of 743 - ahead of T-Mobile (739), but behind Sprint (745) and Verizon (762).

However, eWeek cites a recent Vocallabs National Customer Service Survey, which told a different story. Specifically, 69 percent of AT&T customers said they were "very satisfied" with their calls to the carriers' customer service center during the three months ending December 2011. It beat out Verizon (60 percent), Sprint (59 percent) and T-Mobile (48 percent).

"We make customer service a priority so we’re pleased to be recognized again for our efforts to provide a top-notch experience," said LeAnn Priebe, Senior Vice President of AT&T Mobility Customer Solution Centers. "But we don’t take praise for granted - everyday we work hard to deliver the industry’s best products and services with exceptional customer care."

In addition, Business 2 Community (B2C) notes that according to the latest data from the Better Business Bureau, AT&T had the fewest complaints and the lowest complaint rate among the four big carriers. Furthermore, Brand Keys' 2011 Customer Loyalty Index saw AT&T rank No. 1 nationally in customer satisfaction and loyalty for wireless phone service.

Linda Ireland, author of the B2C article, points out that, despite speculation that AT&T would lose business once Sprint and Verizon made the iPhone available on their networks, the company continued to outsell the them.

However, she notes that many AT&T customers suffer from being held captive. This means the carrier makes it difficult for customers to end their contracts, so it seems that many consumers have no choice but to remain with the carrier, which muddles the concept of loyalty

"Locking customers in prohibits a measure of loyalty AT&T should trust," writes Ireland. "Until we come up with a 'complacency' or 'frustrated and stuck' index and begin dissecting truly loyal, enthusiastic consumers from those who don’t have the time or resources to navigate the breaking of a contract, loyalty is one metric - but not the most important metric we can fully trust to drive improvements in customer experience and organization performance."