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Verizon Wireless ranks No. 1 in customer service

J.D. Power and Associates has ranked Verizon Wireless tops in customer service.

Verizon Wireless has unseated T-Mobile USA as the U.S. mobile operator with the best customer service, according to a J.D. Power and Associates study released Thursday.

For about five years running, T-Mobile, the smallest of the four big nationwide carriers, has topped the J.D. Power survey for its good customer service and overall customer satisfaction. But it looks like Verizon Wireless has won the top honor in the customer service arena.

Verizon has always gotten high marks for its reliable network. But now it looks like customers are happy with its customer support, too.

The survey tracked operators' ability to provide an actual solution to a given problem on the phone, in person, or online. It also scored the companies based on the amount of time that customers were kept on hold. J.D. Power singled Verizon out for being particularly good at resolving problems the first time a call was made without customers having to call the support number multiple times.

Alltel, a regional carrier that Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring, came in second. T-Mobile was a close third place. And AT&T, the largest mobile operator, ranked fourth.

Overall calls to customer support were up slightly from a year ago, the study said. About 49 percent of wireless customers said they had contacted customer care within the past year, whereas 47 percent said they had contacted customer support the previous year. Among those who contacted service departments, about 34 percent did so due to service or equipment issues.

With more than 80 percent of Americans owning a cell phone in the U.S., it's clear that customer satisfaction and support matters. Verizon Wireless' parent, Verizon Communications, has been focusing much more on customer support in the past year. It looks like the attention to customer support could be winning Verizon more fans. This might also help explain why Verizon Wireless has the lowest churn (or customer turnover) rate in the industry, with only 1.1 percent. This is compared to Sprint Nextel, which has a churn rate of about 2 percent.