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A new study by research firm PerfectRec says Apple’s claim for a consistent 99% customer satisfaction rating is impossible. It details why the said high rating is impossible using traditional survey methods and a representative sample. PerfectRec says it sent Apple an email about the matter, but the company remains mum about how it reached the rating.

The study is a response to Apple’s claim during its May earnings call, wherein the company said that its iPhone 14 saw a 99% customer satisfaction rating. The satisfaction survey was performed by third-party research firm 451 Research. PerfectRec says Apple has been claiming the same high rating for the past seven years, but it underscores how this is impossible. It also adds that independent sources, including other consumer companies and brands, have “significantly lower” satisfaction ratings than what Apple brags.

PerfectRec analyst Wally Nowinski, who shares the findings, says that the firm even reached out to Apple, alongside 451 Research, for comments but received no reply even if it opened the letter 73 times.

“Our best guess is that Apple wants to make bold customer satisfaction claims, and has hired a third-party research firm that will produce those numbers to make them seem more credible – and perhaps to provide plausible deniability,” the study reads. “That firm is likely using a highly unrepresentative sample of tech enthusiasts and early adopters to generate extraordinary satisfaction numbers that Apple then presents as representative of consumers generally.”

Economist and PerfectRec founder Joe Golden also explained why attaining a 99% rating using standard survey methods and a representative sample is impossible. “Even if every single person actually loved their iPhone it would still be nearly impossible to find near unanimous satisfaction using traditional survey methods,” explains Golden. “A few percent of people just won’t understand the question, or will give the wrong response by mistake.”

In the end, while the PerfectRec study praises iPhones and describes them as “extraordinary,” Golden encouraged Apple to always prove its claims by sharing more research details.

“We’re not calling on the SEC to investigate these customer satisfaction claims, since they have more important cases to go after,” Golden said. “But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we believe Apple should review the survey results they trumpet on every earnings call. If they truly think they are valid, they should publish their methodology, and if not, they should issue retractions.”


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