Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has long been perceived as the tech company with the most loyal following, but a recent survey from SurveyMonkey showed that the company's mobile rival, Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF), receives more allegiance from its customers.
That's great for Samsung, but does more customer loyalty really lead to more device sales?
The cold, hard numbers
In the fourth quarter of 2014, SurveyMonkey asked 5,000 respondents to answer questions about customer loyalty. Here's what they said:
- Samsung scored higher for customer loyalty (35), compared to Apple (28).
- The loyalty industry average for this survey was 19, meaning both companies came out considerably higher than their peers. For comparison, Microsoft received a score of -8.
- Apple still dominates customer satisfaction (something Apple CEO Tim Cook often talks about at company events). Apple scored a 41, while Samung received a score of just 25. The average is 75, so clearly both companies could do better.
It should be said that this is just one survey, and the answers are representative of all of Apple's and Samsung's products. That means a defective Samsung refrigerator or a buggy Apple TV would factor into survey respondents' answers just as much as if a customer loved his or her smartphone.
So how do we know if these loyalty numbers correlate with sales of Apple and Samsung's most important devices? In short, they don't.
Sales speak louder than surveys
While this information is interesting, clearly the most important thing to consider is actual sales of devices. If you're an Apple investor, the above loyalty stats probably don't mean much to you given the company's record-breaking iPhone sales quarter. Apple sold 74.8 million iPhones and officially became the top-selling smartphone vendor in the world.
At the same time, Samsung investors probably don't care about the company's industry-beating loyalty while its mobile devices sales have slipped over the past three quarters.
Sure, having stronger customer loyalty sounds great. But I think both companies and their investors know strong sales are much better.
Looking past the loyalty stats, Apple is enjoying Android's current identity crisis.
"Android vendors at the high end are finding it hard to differentiate and add value beyond technology and features. Furthermore, Apple's brand clout and ecosystem -- alongside the new large-screen iPhone models -- are strong alternatives," Gartner Research Director Roberta Cozza recently stated.
But Cozza didn't stop there. "We also estimate that, despite Apple's premium price tags, the iOS base replacement cycle that started in the fourth quarter of 2014 with the larger iPhones will carry on into 2015," she said.
So let's add all of this up. Samsung has better customer loyalty but lagging smartphone sales, and high-end Android devices are finding it difficult to differentiate themselves. Meanwhile, Apple has lower customer loyalty, a record-breaking iPhone sales quarter, and Gartner expects the good times to keep coming. So much for surveys.