The results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, released Tuesday, show that customer service competition between Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless has evened out. The Big 4 wireless carriers are now within two points of each other on a 100-point scale of customer satisfaction. That’s the smallest spread since the annual survey started looking at all four companies in 2005 and is also within the margin of error of plus or minus three points.

The Associated Press reports that improvements in customer satisfaction at Sprint Nextel Corp. and AT&T Inc. are credited with narrowing the differences among the four carriers.

Last year, AT&T clearly trailed the pack, while Sprint and Verizon led. ACSI noted the  surprising development last year for Sprint, which was last only four years ago.

AT&T recovered this year, with a three-point increase to 69. It shares that score with T-Mobile USA, the No. 4 carrier by size. Verizon and Sprint are at 70 and 71, respectively.

Developed by the University of Michigan, the survey is now run by privately held ACSI, which surveyed some 6,000 households in the first quarter.

The satisfaction index does not typically translate to actual customer loyalty. For instance, the AP story points out that T-Mobile customers are far more likely to leave the carrier than AT&T’s are, despite that they have the same score. That may be due to the fact that T-Mobile is the only company among the Big 4 that doesn’t sell the iPhone.

The ACSI for the first time published a score for Apple Inc. as a phone manufacturer. At 83 points, it easily surpassed other manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.


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