What the Ratings Assess
We asked PCWorld.com visitors to rate vendors in five product categories: laptop PCs, desktop PCs, HDTVs, digital cameras, and printers. In each category, we rated each vendor in nine specific areas of customer service or product reliability.
On each measure, we determined whether the vendor's score was significantly better than the average mark, not significantly different from the average, or significantly worse than the average. If a vendor drew fewer than 50 responses on a particular measure, we discarded the results as statistically unstable. (This threshold requirement prevented us from rating some smaller vendors.) The information reported in our article is thus not raw data, but variability from category averages.
Problems on arrival (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem with the device out of the box.
Any significant problem (all devices): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported any problem at all during the product's lifetime.
Any failed component replaced (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported replacing one or more original components because the components had failed.
Core component problem (laptop and desktop PCs): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported problems with the processor, motherboard, power supply, hard drive, system memory, or graphics board/chip at any time during the life of their laptop or desktop PC.
Severe problem (HDTVs, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who reported a problem that rendered their device impossible to use.
Ease of use (HDTVs, cameras, and printers): Based on the percentage of survey respondents who rated their device as extremely or very easy to use.
Overall satisfaction with reliability (all devices): Based on the owner's overall satisfaction with the reliability of the device.
Phone hold time: Based on the average time a product's owners waited on hold to speak to a phone support representative.
Average phone service rating: Based on a cumulative score derived from product owners' ratings of several aspects of their experience in phoning the company's technical support service. Among the factors considered were whether the information was easy to understand, and whether the support rep spoke clearly and knowledgeably.
Problem was never resolved: Based on the percentage of survey respondents who said the problem remained after they contacted the company's support service.
Service experience: Based on a cumulative score derived from product owners' responses to a series of questions focusing on 11 specific aspects of their experience with the company's service department.
We polled roughly 45,000 PCWorld.com readers who responded to e-mail messages. We used methods of statistical analysis to determine which companies were significantly better or worse than the average, based on all responses about a certain product type. Because our survey sample is heavily weighted toward generally tech-savvy readers, it may not be representative of the general population, which may have different expectations and experiences with technology products.