Have you been stuck on hold for an hour when you call a companies’ customer service number, only to get hung up on? Do you get 10 different answers from 9 different representatives? Are they lighting fast to take your cash but impossibly slow to help you with any issues? You’re not alone – welcome to the horrible world of customer service circa 2013. For some cryptic reason, the premise of making customers happy and helping them has gone out the window in recent years. Instead we get call centers of robots reciting companies policies but refusing to make a common sense decision to solve a problem, billing mistakes 100% in the companies’ favor, and an indecipherable maze of fees and charges penalizing we, the consumer, for daring to do business with them.
Dealing with the new Draconian corporate rules of customer service – namely, there is none. Of course this isn’t always the case, and in a future blog we’ll heap praise on those companies and brands who still do value human relationships and service to their clients, but here I’ll investigate the 10 companies with the worst customer service.
These numbers are based on a survey by MSN Money for their 2013 Customer Service Hall of Fame – and of Shame. MSN’s researchers polled 1,500 consumers about their experience with 150 common companies over 15 industries, rating them “excellent, good, fair, or poor.” The results tell us not only that sometimes the bigger the company, the worse the customer service, but bad service is rampant in certain industries, mainly banking and telecom. That’s no accident, as it’s become a document facet of their business model to over promise, under deliver, lock people into long term contracts, and then squeeze every dollar out of them possible.
Another scary fact? Of the 10 companies voted worst for customer service, 6 gave higher CEO compensation packages than the median pay of the 200 top-paid CEOs of U.S. public companies! We can only conclude that it’s conscious greed that’s driving this bad service, above all else.
Here are the worst 10 companies for customer service, #1 being the absolute worst.
10. American Express. Poor Rating: 14%
Amex is a strange case, because the company is known for its high-end clients and excellent service. In fact, it often lands on the list for top companies with good service! But that warm, fuzzy feeling has seemed to recede in recent years, as Amex has entered and is looking to compete in the more traditional credit card market. With that, apparently, comes bad service, felt by many long time customers, but that didn’t stop CEO Kenneth Chenault from taking home a $28 million compensation package, the highest in our bottom 10 Hall of Shame.
9. Time Warner Cable. Poor Rating 14.3%
TWC, the nation’s second largest cable provider reaching 15 million homes, is notorious for no-shows, missed appointments, late calls and customer service phones calls leading nowhere, and declined to be interviewed for this survey. TWC posted a net income of $2.2 billion last year, a 29% one-year gain and up 65% from 2010.
8. Direct TV. Poor Rating 14.4%
Direct TV has been on the receiving end not just of customer complaints, but court action based on serial improprieties meant to defraud their users. In 2010 they were mandated to pay $14 million in fines for irregular termination fees and contractual gaffes, and again in 2005 they paid out $5 million. Direct TV declined to be interviewed but released this statement: "While we do our best to provide everyone with excellent service, we recognize there's room for improvement."
7. Discover Financial. Poor Rating 14.4%
Discover’s favorite MO is to double a customer’s interest rates for no apparent reason, even when they didn’t miss a payment, a practice that led them to the courts, where they were forced to pay $14 million in fines and $200 million to more than 3.5 wronged consumers. Among other things, Discover was offering services like payment protection, credit score tracking, identity theft protection, etc, for free, but really charging.
6. AT&T. Poor Rating 14.7%
AT&T has taken the cake for last place in Consumer Reports three years running for its voice and data quality. The mega-provider has 107 million wireless customers and growing rapidly, posting $127 billion in revenue last year, but consistently customers express shock and outrage how their customer service department is really a phone tree that almost never leads to a live, helpful human being.
5. Wells Fargo. Poor Rating 16.8% (credit cards) and 15.7% (bank.)
Wells has become of pushing a customer’s issue to the next department, and the next, and still the next, until they become so frustrated they give up. The company, posting $86 billion in revenue last year, is big on promises to get people signed up for their services, but consistently delivers on few of them. No one can figure out their system or procedures, and customer service agents or personnel almost always contradict themselves.
4. Citigroup/Citibank. Poor Rating 18.2% and 15.4% (bank.)
Citigroup hit rock bottom in customer service a couple years ago, when an astounding 31% of customers polled rated its service “poor.” It’s improving, but still nowhere close to being a well-run and customer friendly organization. For instance, despite rules set out in the $25 billion mortgage settlement, it’s failing to communicate effectively with mortgage holders. Customer also complain of overseas transaction fees, website failures, taxing the value of airline miles, and other mysterious and erroneous practices.
3. Dish Network. Poor Rating 19%
At Consumer Affairs.com, an unheard of 85% of reviewers gave Dish 1 star out of 5 for their overall service. You have to try to be that bad. Even worse, their sales agents have been reported as aggressive, rude, and pushy, practices that caused them to face two lawsuits. Dish declined an interview, but in a written statement they said, “the company strives for excellence.” How about starting just with mediocrity, because even that would be a huge improvement!
2. Comcast. Poor Rating 21.2%
Four years ago, 41% of customers polled called Comcast’s service “poor,” so it has been improving measurably. That would be acceptable if it wasn’t providing still-horrible service to so many people, 21.9 million nationwide as the largest provider of internet-cable-phone. They’ve lost more than a million dissatisfied customers with a three-year period, and at the same time posted a 75% increase in revenues, to $62.57 billion in 2012. Hmmmm.
1. Bank of America. Poor Rating 23.4% (bank) and 21% (credit cards.)
B of A is the nation’s largest financial institution with $2.18 trillion in deposits, yet for the 3rd year in a row they rated in the customer service Hall of Shame for both banking and credit card service. The banking giant is also fending off lawsuits left and right and leaning on any dissenters with criminal action, like they did to a San Diego man who wrote anti-B of A messages on the sidewalk out front of their office. He was tried on criminal vandalism charges. He’d written the messages in chalk. Last year, B of A posted a net income of $4.2 billion, an astronomical increase from 2011’s $1.4 billion, though their service suffered almost conversely.