“Making customers happy, some experts say, is the fine art of balancing experience and expectation. Based on that, the feeling of Microsoft Corp. customers is starting to edge ever so slightly toward the disappointment end of the spectrum, according to the results of an annual survey by the University of Michigan released on Tuesday,” Eric Lai reports for Computerworld.

Lai reports, “Microsoft scored 70 out of 100 on the latest Q1 results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index released by Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business. That’s down from 74 for the same period in 2006, the first year Microsoft was ranked. ‘Very small differences [in this survey] count for a lot,’ said Claes Fornell, a University of Michigan professor and director of the ACSI.”

“The overall customer satisfaction rating with companies in the ACSI, which surveyed 80,000 people nationwide via the Web during the first three months of the year, was 73, according to Fornell. The approval rating for all software vendors (including Microsoft) assessed in the survey was 75,” Lai reports.

Lai reports, “Fornell said that the launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007 during the period in which the survey was conducted may have played a part in dragging down Microsoft’s score. That’s not actually because a majority of respondents had tried either software and found it lacking, he said. Rather, Microsoft’s need to hype the two products through marketing and advertising may have created a backlash among some jaded consumers, he said.”

MacDailyNews Take: Yes, if those who had actually tried Vista were surveyed more heavily, Microsoft would have scored around 32.

Lai continues, “Fornell also said that customers have higher expectations for market-leading companies such as Microsoft… But Fornell said that customers already give high-tech firms, such as Microsoft, a break because of the nature of the industry and of the products. ‘If cars were only as reliable as PCs, our roads would be pretty messy,’ he said.”

MacDailyNews Take: Now you know why so many use Windows. Microsoft has mastered the art of creating low expectations. This is why The Dark Ages of Personal Computing are so pervasive and tenacious. This is why your Windows-only friends, family and co-workers won’t believe you or Apple about Macs; it’s why they won’t switch and drastically improve their personal computing experience. Microsoft has taught them, through harsh repetition, that computers often break, are unreliable, insecure, frustrating, etc. Unlike poor Mr. Fornell, who (it’s painfully obvious) is a WIndows-only sufferer, the typical Mac user would instead say, “If cars were only as reliable as Macs, we’d save a fortune in auto repair bills.” To Windows-only users who’ve just found us today by way of Google News or elsewhere: it’s way, way, way past time to pop the red pill. Expect more. Demand more. Get more. Apple Macintosh.

Full article here.

Q1 2007 and Historical ACSI Scores can be found here (no info about Apple or any other software maker is available in the report).

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader "Nick" for the heads up.]