AT&T fails Consumer Reports survey, in full denial

December 01, 2009 9:58 PM EST

Don't listen to the bloggers.  Don't listen to the mainstream media.  And certainly don't listen to your users.  What should be AT&T's latest wake up call on their abysmal network quality is flying over its head.  They really don't get it.

Today, Consumer Reports came out with their annual survey of mobile carrier customer satisfaction.  The survey was given to 50,000 readers and when all tallied, AT&T came in dead last overall. They finished low or last in almost every category and they finished last in 19 of 26 major cities surveyed (73%) as well.  It is hard to imagine how they could have fared worse.

 
Consumer Reports

Yet, they continue to behave like they are on top of the world.  AT&T commented to AllThingsD:

...the company stressed [that the survey results] were based on anecdotal feedback from a self-selected group of subscribers: “We appreciate and value all customer feedback. We learn from it and it helps us serve our customers better. Without question the surest indication of customer satisfaction is churn, or turnover. For the last quarter, our postpaid churn was just 1.17 percent.”

The only reason they are still getting/keeping customers is because they carry the nation's most desired smartphone and the only real way to get that (i)Phone is to sign a two year contract with the nation's worst carrier.

Given a choice, how many people would change networks in a heartbeat if another network carried the iPhone and they weren't already entangled in a two year contract?  My guess is most of them.

The real question is how long can Apple afford to be associated with AT&T?  Apple perennially tops the Consumer Reports satisfaction surveys in just about every category they compete in.  Sooner or later they are going to start feeling the association sting in brand quality by forcing their customers to use AT&T.  Imagine if BMW sold their high end sportscars with generic, store-brand tires.  And, changing those tires was not a viable option.  For a time, you could separate the tire from the car.  But eventually, the effects would start to carry over.

AT&T is part of the iPhone experience. Apple certainly can't be happy with the results of that.  They will have to make a move at some point.

As for AT&T, they really need to stop everything else they are doing immediately and focus 100% on building a better network.  All the PR in the world can't fix a broken network, as much as they seem to try.