Customer Service Hall of Shame

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10. Citigroup
> Pct. ratings “poor”: 15.3% (credit card), 15.1% (banking)

More than 15% of respondents said they had a “poor” experience with both Citigroup Inc.’s (NYSE: C) credit card and banking businesses.

However, Citigroup is hardly alone among financial institutions in receiving low ratings for its customer service. Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo had worse-rated banking operations. While missing from the bottom 10, Capital One and J.P. Morgan Chase also received low ratings.

The banking industry as a whole suffers from bad press, likely due to its involvement in the financial crisis. According to analyst Dick Bove, penalties, regulations and rule changes have made quality customer service even more difficult to deliver.

“The banks responded by taking away millions of credit cards from customers that they could no longer do business with on a profitable basis,” Bove said.

While customers gave Citi’s credit card and banking service low grades, the bank performed well overall in the Pew Charitable Trusts’ most recent annual survey on consumer banking practices. Citi’s policies include five of the seven “best practices” endorsed by the study.

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9. Wells Fargo
> Pct. ratings “poor”: 16.2% (credit card), 15.0% (banking)

More than 16% of survey participants said their experience with Wells Fargo’s credit card business was “poor.” Wells Fargo’s banking operations did not fare much better for customer service. About 15% reported a “poor” customer service experience for Well Fargo as a bank.

The company declined an interview. In written statement, it said that it was committed to improving customer experience, and that it was “always looking for ways to apply their input and further strengthen our customer service.”

Although Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) has largely avoided the financial crisis-related fines several of its competitors paid, it has not been immune to scrutiny. The bank, which is the largest provider of home loans, was sued by the Federal Housing Authority in 2012 for bad mortgages. Like other banks, continuous criticism since the financial crisis is likely a major component of Wells Fargo’s customer dissatisfaction.

According to Bove, bad press is only part of the problem. Strict regulations and large fines can have a considerable impact on customer relations as banks are forced to implement cost-cutting measures that may inconvenience consumers.

8. AT&T
> Pct. ratings “poor”: 17.5%

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is hardly the only mobile telephone company that received a disproportionate number of negative reviews for its customer service. In fact, all four of the nation’s leading mobile carriers were among the bottom fifth of companies evaluated.

Although the company’s record of customer service is spotty, AT&T has developed several initiatives designed to improve customer outreach. Among these, the company wrote in its annual report that it had 70 staffers dedicated to customer care on social media platforms. Additionally, last year AT&T streamlined its call center menus, cut waiting times, and trained specialized employees to handle smartphone operating system-related questions.

“Three or four years ago, the customer service at AT&T was very poor, but they really have come a long way,” Kopalle said. Now, “They pick up the phone pretty fast, they resolve your situation very quickly.” However, Kopalle noted that AT&T’s service is hardly perfect. “I think they still suffer from a number of dropped calls. That’s not really a good thing.”