Verizon Wireless seizes top spot from T-Mobile in J. D. Power rankings

No longer will bragging rights be claimed by T-Mobile, which held the top spot in the J. D. Power & Associates survey since 2004. Meanwhile, across the entire industry, time spent by wireless customers on hold continues to rise.

In the latest J. D. Power & Associates Customer Care Performance Study released yesterday, Verizon scored a 103, followed by Alltel with a 102 and T-Mobile with a score of 100. The industry average was said to be 96.

The survey doesn't reveal the exact cause of T-Mobile's upset, nor does it speculate on its implications. The carrier's customer service has repeatedly been lauded as one of the best, even outside of the wireless industry.

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Statistical noise may also play a factor: The top three companies were only separated by three points.

AT&T took the third spot with a score of 97. Sprint lagged far behind any of its competitors, scoring a 79: only nine points above the minimum score of 70. In a statement, Sprint did admit to issues with customer care, saying improving it was its "number one priority."

In a statement yesterday, J. D. Power wireless director Kirk Parsons said that Verizon was doing particularly well in resolving customer service issues within one call.

For its own part, the victorious carrier swiftly noted its success. "We are pleased that this latest study agrees with our belief that Verizon Wireless offers the best customer experience in wireless," VZW's COO and executive vice president Jack Plating said in a statement.

In other data obtained by the ratings service, wireless customers spent an average of 4.4 minutes on hold this year, up one-third since 2003. The firm says the increasing complexity of phones used by consumers makes calls to customer service longer, thus increasing the hold times for others.

This could be a problem for carriers who let the hold times get longer for customers. "Switching levels are 83 percent higher among customers who are put on hold, compared with those who are not," remarked Parsons.

Just about half of all customers have contacted customer care, up slightly from six months ago. One third of those contacted support with either equipment or service issues.

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