TOP 10 WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE CORPS
I warned you a few months back that I was going to dedicate some time to exposing folks that do bad business. Life is hard enough for most of us without having the added stress from places where WE are the consumer. Corporations forget this the most. When I stumbled on this MSN article this morning, I could’t resist but to post it. I laughed as I read it because from my own experiences with these places, I have experienced similar.
The thing is though, we the people have a voice that we do not use to it’s best ability. These companies wouldn’t have money or power without a consumer base. If you have had similar experiences, TAKE YOUR BUSINESS ELSEWHERE. It communicates a message. #OPERATIONREVOLUTION (Source: MSN)
No. 10: American Express
‘Poor’ rating: 14%
Author and media analyst Jeff Jarvis has written an intriguing blog post titled “An AmEx member no more.” It could just as easily be called “A quick guide to giving a good customer the boot.”
Jarvis wanted to stay with American Express (AXP). But first he wanted the company to want him.
“Retain me,” he kindly offers an agent, after his card is cancelled due to fraudulent charges. Instead, Jarvis meets with inaction (agents bizarrely unable to send him a replacement card) and attempts to sell him a more expensive card.
“That’s that. A 35-year customer relationship with untold thousands of dollars of business gone. And no one in Amex could care,” Jarvis writes. A dozen or more other paying customers share similar stories in response.
American Express has long held a reputation for top-flight service to its high-end clientele. And many customers still do feel the love. Last year, American Express landed in our Hall of Fame, which honors companies with the highest percentage of votes for “excellent” service. It nearly did so again this year. It’s now the only company that has graced both ends of our customer-service rankings.
But chunks of good feeling appear to be dropping off. In recent years, American Express has increased its promotion of traditional revolving-credit cards, such as Blue Sky, along with its traditional pay-as-you-go card. And credit card providers often don’t rank well in our survey.
In a settlement with the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last year, American Express agreed to reimburse cardholders $85 million on allegations that it misled applicants about card benefits and engaged in age discrimination. American Express agreed to pay $27.5 million in fines.
Spokesman Tom Sclafani said American Express values customer-service surveys. “We see this as an opportunity to get feedback, and to use feedback to improve our products and services,” he said.
American Express had net income of $4.5 billion in 2012. CEO Kenneth Chenault was the highest-paid of the chief executives in our customer-service Hall of Shame, taking a $28 million compensation package last year.
No. 9: Time Warner Cable
‘Poor’ rating: 14.3%
Pity the company that takes on New York City, teeming as it is with comedians looking for their next target.
Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, of the comedy duo the Good Liars, found theirs in Time Warner Cable(TWC), the only cable provider in parts of the boroughs and beyond.
In a three-minute video parody available online, the pair conduct sidewalk interviews in which they introduce themselves as representatives of Time Warner Cable customer service and ask, “What can we do worse?”
“Worse?” people say, stumped.
At one point, the comedians interrupt to ask, “Do you mind holding for one second?”
But let’s say Time Warner Cable could scrub the Web clean of satire. Real customer stories on consumer complaint sites are often just as funny.
Take this customer screed at MyThreeCents, which details a monthlong attempt to get TWC to lay a cable and trigger service, a job that ultimately took just a few hours.
After three and a half weeks, two no-shows and nine phone calls, the company called to cancel a Monday appointment that it made, explaining, “Well, we DO do installations on Mondays, but we really don’t.”
The nation’s second-largest cable provider, TWC provides some combination of television, Internet and cable to 15 million homes.
The company declined an interview, writing in a statement that “we continually listen.” It cited “faster Internet speeds, free WiFi, one-hour appointment windows” and apps that together are “bringing more value and convenience to our customers and responding to their wants and needs.”
TWC posted net income last year of $2.2 billion, a 29% one-year boost and a 65% increase over 2010. CEO Glenn Britt received compensation of $17.2 million last year.
No. 8: DirecTV
‘Poor’ rating: 14.4%
Why is it that rectifying a complaint about poor service often requires calling on a higher power — in this case, a newspaper reporter?
That’s what 89-year-old Thomas Nolan of Ocean Township, N.J., did when DirecTV wanted to charge him an early termination fee for a service that didn’t function appropriately from the outset.
Only after DirecTV (DTV) installed the satellite equipment did the New Jersey man learn that he couldn’t use his VCR. The technician hadn’t even had the courtesy to Nolan that he’d unplugged it.
Unable to get the company to resolve the issue — and told he’d now need a new HDTV to use the VCR — Nolan cancelled. He was more interested, he said, in family videos than in football. The company wouldn’t pick up its equipment, but it did charge $343.33 to his credit card.
When Nolan protested the cancellation fee, he received a form letter. When a reporter from the (New Jersey) Star-Ledger asked DirecTV about it, the company responded the same day, saying it would waive his fee “as a one-time courtesy.”
DirecTV’s early-termination fees have landed the company in hot water before. In 2010, DirecTV agreed to reimburse customers and pay $14 million in fines. It said it would clarify its contracts and waive termination fees when a customer’s service problems could not be resolved.
The company settled for $5 million on similar charges in 2005, and it continues to fight a class-action suit claiming unfair cancellation charges.
DirecTV declined an interview, but did send a statement pointing to its high score in the American Customer Satisfaction Index and writing: “While we do our best to provide everyone with excellent service, we recognize there’s room for improvement.”
DirecTV has 20 million subscribers and net $2.95 billion in income last year on $29.7 billion in revenue. CEO Michael White took home a $17.9 million compensation package.
No. 7: Discover Financial Services
‘Poor’ rating: 14.4%
This story recounted by “Jacqui” at ConsumerAffairs.com is typical of reports there.
“My husband lost his job three years ago and we wound up building up some debt, but we always paid our bills on time,” she writes.
The couple never missed a payment, However, the poster writes, Discover pulled a credit report on its own and, upon seeing their increased debt load, doubled the card’s interest rate, from 9.99% to 19.99%.
Six months later, the poster writes, the company was still refusing to restore the lower interest rate. Three other credit card companies — JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citibank (C) and Bank of America (BAC) — had lowered her interest rate “with a simple phone call,” she said. “Why is Discover being so difficult?”
Discover Financial Services (DFS) declined an interview about our list. In a written statement, it cited high marks from JD Power and Associates and other surveys, adding: “Discover has a long history of putting our customers first, and we remain committed to exceeding their expectations.”
This is the credit-card company’s first appearance in our Customer Service Hall of Shame.
In a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last year, Discover agreed to pay a $14 million fine and refund $200 million to more than 3.5 million consumers to settle accusations that it misled cardholders into believing that add-on products it peddled — payment protection, credit score tracking, identity theft protection and wallet protection — were free, when, in fact, customers were charged.
In 2012, Discover Financial posted revenue of $3.1 billion. Of that, $2.3 billion was net income. Chairman and CEO David Nelms received a pay package valued at $9.92 million.
No. 6: AT&T
‘Poor’ rating: 14.7%
Over at Consumer Reports, AT&T Wireless (T) routinely skids into last place among major U.S. cellphone providers. It has taken the dubious honor for the past three years, particularly for its voice and data quality.
Maybe the guy in the AT&T advertisements should reconsider the question he keeps posing to the little children and instead ask: “Is bigger really better?”AT&T now has 107 million wireless customers and is on target to add 5 million from Leap’s Cricket in a planned acquisition of Leap Wireless International (LEAP) this summer. By revenue, AT&T is now the third-largest mobile company in the world.
Trouble is, customers seem to have a tough time getting through. “They give solutions and then say call back in 24 hrs if the problem persists, so you have to call multiple times to get a human being to answer and then you literally wait hrs to get to anyone that can attempt to help,” wrote MSN Money reader “nimblevagrant.”
That was one of nearly two dozen posts to our 2012 Customer Service Hall of Shame expressing disbelief, outrage even, that AT&T hadn’t received lower scores in our survey. (It missed the 2012 Hall of Shame by two positions.) Billing mistakes, poor quality and the inability to reach support help topped the frustrations.
“How much did AT&T pay you to be left out of this list?” wrote one commenter. (We hope he was joking, but for the record, it didn’t.)
So, readers: Given your prescience last year, do tell us which companies you think should have made the list this year, or will in our next survey. Comment below.
AT&T declined an interview. In a written statement, it cited its fourth win in the Brand Keys Annual Customer Loyalty Index and the speed of its 4G LGE network. “But, of course, we welcome all feedback as we continually work to improve the customer experience,” the company said.
The company, which also runs telephone and Internet service, posted $127 billion revenue last year, with net income of $7.3 billion. Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson took home a $21.1 million compensation package in 2012.
No. 5: Wells Fargo
‘Poor’ rating: 16.8% and 15.7% (bank)
The well-regarded bank analyst Richard Bove did something unusual last year.
First, he became increasingly irritated by the lackluster service he was receiving at his bank, Wells Fargo(WFC).
No one would greet him. He was told to wait, then watched the person he was waiting for leave the building. He couldn’t get branch workers to help with a six-figure deposit. Call our phone agents, they said. Go to the branch, phone agents said. No one suggested investment alternatives. The bank stuck the big check in a no-interest checking account. Bove also found unexplained fees and had a mortgage application bungled.
But that’s not the unusual part. Big banks, increasingly focused on wealth management services, have been giving retail customers the cold shoulder for years.
What was strange, and enlightening, is that when Bove publicly slammed Wells Fargo’s customer service, he simultaneously recommended its stock, calling it the best-run bank in the country.
“The conclusion I reached is that service is less important than selling,” he wrote (.pdf file). “Customer service is not a key factor in building a successful bank. In fact, it may be a detriment to success, not a source of it.”
This is Wells Fargo’s third appearance in our Hall of Shame, and, like the two other big banks on the list this year, it qualified based on both its credit card (16.8% “poor”) and its banking (15.7% “poor”) services. We only give each company one spot in our list of 10.
Wells Fargo declined an interview. In a written response, it said it has added bankers and that its credit card closure rate was “low,” although the company would not elaborate.
“We know there is room for improvement and consistently strive for ways to enhance the customer experience,” it wrote.
Bove, for one, isn’t waiting around. He moved his accounts to another bank, JP Morgan Chase (JPM).
Wells Fargo generated $86 billion in revenue last year, up from $80.9 billion in 2011. CEO John Stumpf took home a $19.3 million compensation package.
No. 4: Citigroup/Citibank
‘Poor’ rating: 18.2% and 15.4%
It seems Citigroup (C) is trying. The company volunteered last year to adopt the simplified checking-account overview recommended by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Its customer-satisfaction rates are rising at a faster rate than those of other big banks, according to outside surveys. And its raw scores have improved in the MSN Money-JZ Analytics poll since two years ago, when 31% called its customer service “poor.” (Other companies have seen their raw scores drop, too.)
But the banking giant — parent Citigroup is the world’s largest financial services network; Citibank its banking arm — lands in our Hall of Shame for the fifth year. In fact, while we allow each company just one spot, it had two of the worst scores: 18.2% rated its customer service “poor” as a credit-card company, while 15.4% said the same of its banking services.
Citibank is slipping on big issues, like failing to communicate properly with mortgage holders, despite rules it agreed to in a $25 billion settlement it and other large banks made with federal authorities.
And it’s faltering on issues that, although seemingly small by comparison, do rile customers, like charging fees at Citibank branches overseas, taxing the value of airline miles and letting its website go on the blink.
Citibank declined an interview. In a written statement, it pointed to improvements in its social media engagement, its user-friendly mobile and Web platforms and its simplified guide to products.
“While there is more work to be done, efforts to date have yielded significant results,” it said.
Citibank posted revenue of $70.2 billion in 2012 and net income of $7.54 billion, a slide from its $11 billion profit the year before. Last year, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat took home $12.4 million in compensation.
No. 3: Dish Network
‘Poor’ rating: 19%
The Georgia woman considered switching to Dish Network (DISH) for her television service.
But it took just one phone call with one sales representative to turn her from an almost-customer into an anti-customer. She raised her voice on the Internet:
“I would never now consider going with this company because of how I was treated,” wrote “Barbara” at ConsumerAffairs.com. At ConsumerAffairs.com, 85% of 2,531 reviewers gave the company one out of a possible five stars, citing vague sales contracts, hefty termination fees and other issues.
What did the agent do? He was rude. “Vinney . . . began to get upset when I explained that my husband and I would have to talk.”
High-pressure sales tactics like these have been landing Dish in the doghouse for years.
The Federal Trade Commission has launched at least two lawsuits against Dish, for calling people who asked to be removed from their telemarking lists and for violating the national do-not-call registry.
Dish is making its third appearance in our own customer-service Hall of Shame.
Dish declined an interview, but it sent a written statement saying that the company strives for excellence and hopes Dish customers see the results of its investment. “Despite our progress, we understand that there is more to accomplish,” it said.
At least the executives aren’t pocketing dollars by multiples of millions. Chairman Charlie Ergen received $1.3 million last year and CEO Joseph P. Clayton took home $907,000.
The company took in revenues of $14.26 billion in 2012, netting a profit of $637 million.
No. 2: Comcast
‘Poor’ rating: 21.2%
Four years ago, 41% of folks in our survey called Comcast’s (CMCSA) customer service “poor.” So by that measure, the cable giant has effectively halved its seriously dissatisfied customers.
That jibes with Comcast’s claims that it’s getting better. The company points to a 97% plus on-time appointment rate now and a 20% drop in repeat technician calls since 2010.
“There’s absolutely a focus to make sure we have that great customer experience,” said Tom Karinshak, the senior vice president for customer experience.
Indeed, 54.6% of this year’s respondents gave Comcast positive scores (21.8% “excellent” and 32.8% “good”). But that’s still nowhere near the 75% to 90% positive ratings our Hall of Fame companies received.
Nor is it hard to find individual stories that make you wonder how a company with 21st century communications at its fingertips can make such blunders.
Take this recent customer review online by someone exasperated after Comcast stood him up on three consecutive appointments without so much as a call. “Wow, after nine years of being a customer – – really?” he wrote.
Or the customers, like this one, who say they’ve been charged an early termination fee for canceling a service that never worked.
The problem is that people don’t soon forget.
The largest cable operator in the country, Comcast provides some combination of television, Internet and telephone service to 21.9 million homes and businesses. That’s just shy of 1 million fewer customers than it had three years ago, as Americans increasingly cut the cable TV cord in favor of cheaper alternatives.
Revenue, meanwhile, rose to $62.57 billion in 2012, a 75% increase from its 2009 gross. Net income over the same period rose 70%, to $6.2 billion last year. CEO Brian Roberts, however, has taken a pay cut. His compensation package dropped from $31 million in 2010 to $25.1 million last year, making him the second-highest paid CEO in our Hall of Shame.
No. 1: Bank of America
‘Poor’ rating: 23.4% (bank) and 21% (credit cards)
Brian Moynihan, appointed to the helm of Bank of America (BAC) in 2010, has been praised for restoring the bank’s stability and running up its stock price. The question is whether, while righting the ship, has has turned a blind eye to the customers sliding off the deck.
The country’s second-largest financial institution, with $2.18 trillion in deposits, made the 2013 MSN Money Customer Service Hall of Shame with high percentages of “poor” ratings for both its banking (23.4%) and credit card (21%’) services, topping our inglorious ranking for the third year in a row.
It’s yet another reminder of how much easier it is to shore up capital than it is to shine a tarnished reputation. Replays of bad times don’t help.
Just this spring, former employees testified in a class-action lawsuit that Bank of America systematically delayed and denied mortgage modifications to collect additional payments and fees from struggling homeowners.
Then, just days later, came the California chalk fiasco — and suggestions that Moynihan may need to bring aboard a new public-relations crew.
Last year, activist Jeff Olson had scrawled anti-big-bank messages in chalk on the sidewalk outside several Bank of America branches. While the chalk had long since washed away, a bank official kept up the pressure on San Diego city prosecutors, who put the man on criminal trial this summer.
A jury quickly acquitted Olson of vandalism charges. Bank of America hasn’t fared so well in the court of public opinion.
As to our customer-service survey, Bank of America declined an interview, but it did send this written statement, in full:
“We take all feedback from our customers very seriously. A better, more consistent experience is central to our efforts, but we know we have more work to do. We are committed to getting it right.”
Bank of America posted net income of $4.2 billion in 2012, compared to $1.4 billion in 2011. Moynihan took home a $12 million compensation package last year.