Consumer Reports: AT&T Rated Worst Customer Satisfaction; Verizon Rated Best

The bad news for AT&T keeps on coming. With its acquisition of T-Mobile in jeopardy, the number-two carrier in America was once again given the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any of the four major mobile carriers in the U.S., according to the latest survey from Consumer Reports.

Oregon-based Consumer Cellular received the highest ratings overall for contract carriers, while Verizon took home the highest customer satisfaction ratings among the four goliaths, beating out Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T, in that order.

From the press release accompanying the Consumer Reports survey results, which were gleaned by surveying "over 66,000 of [CR's] subscribers about their service and customer-support experience with both standard and no-contract providers":

Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon again scored the highest in this year’s Ratings, followed closely by Sprint. Survey respondents gave very good scores to Verizon for texting and data service satisfaction, as well for staff knowledge.

T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than the higher-priced AT&T, which recently withdrew its application to the FCC to merge with its better rival.

Consumer Reports also showed love to regional carriers and prepaid plans, saying that those plans, though not for everyone, generally produced the happiest customers. Consumer Cellular, for example, scored very high on customer support and value of calling plans; U.S. Cellular, which placed second overall for contract carriers and which services about six million customers to make it the sixth largest carrier in the United States, received high marks across the board for customer support, texting and voice quality.

Among the major carriers, Verizon scored high for staff knowledge and data speed quality, while AT&T received low marks for value, voice quality and over-the-phone customer support.

AT&T has consistently been hammered by surveys like this over the past year. After being called the "worst carrier" in 2010 by Consumer Reports, J.D. Power said in August 2011 that AT&T's network was the least reliable in America, and a separate report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index in May called AT&T's customers the least happy of the Big Four carriers.

The company did receive at least one honor this year: Metrico Wireless published a report finding that AT&T was the fastest choice for the iPhone 4S, due to its HSPA+ network; coming full circle, Consumer Reports announced earlier that it could recommend the iPhone 4S after not being able to recommended the iPhone 4 due to antenna problems.

The full results of the Consumer Reports annual satisfaction survey are available to Consumer Reports subscribers online here or in the January issue of the Consumer Reports magazine.


UPDATE: Here's a statement from AT&T on the Consumer Reports survey, sent to HuffPost by an AT&T spokesperson:

While we'll of course evaluate and learn from the Consumer Reports survey, we made significant progress in our network in 2011 including a 25 percent improvement in 3G dropped call performance, 48,000 network improvements (more capacity, new cell sites, faster data speeds, and better connections), and many billions of dollars in capital investment to continue to improve our network. Only AT&T's network lets the iPhone 4S download three times faster and enables simultaneous talk and surf for all smartphones. And, as customer demand continues to skyrocket, our proposed T-Mobile merger will enable AT&T to improve our customers' experience even more.