Special Report

Customer Service Hall of Shame

Every company in the United States likes to promise an exceptional customer experience. Yet some corporations do a truly abysmal job keeping that promise — these companies provide very poor customer service.

To find the companies that provide especially poor customer experiences, 24/7 Wall St. collaborated with research survey group Zogby Analytics. Zogby surveyed more than 1,500 adults about the quality of customer service at 151 of America’s best-known companies in 17 industries. Each respondent was asked to rate each company’s service as excellent, good, fair, or poor.

The companies with the highest share of poor ratings make up the Customer Service Hall of Shame, while those with the highest share of excellent ratings make up the Customer Service Hall of Fame. For the third straight year, cable service provider Comcast tops the Hall of Shame as the company with the worst customer service.

Click here to see the Customer Service Hall of Shame.

Click here to see the Customer Service Hall of Fame.

Click here to see our full methodology. 

Cable, satellite, and wireless service providers make up eight of the 15 companies on this year’s Hall of Shame. Two banks, including each of their credit card divisions, also rank very low. Low-cost retailers Walmart and Kmart as well as insurance companies Progressive and Allstate also made the list this year.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, said “getting things done in an an accurate manner, on a timely basis, and at a reasonable price” is fundamental to customer service. While brand perception can shape the experience of these fundamentals, companies who fail to meet this expectation of service tend to be rated poorly.

Ultimately, customer satisfaction is driven by expectations. Customer service expert and consultant Shep Hyken explained that customer expectations for companies with notoriously poor customer service are very high because of the standards set by companies with good customer service. Hyken said that a very good customer service experience at a restaurant such as Starbucks, for which replacing a bad cup of coffee is relatively easy, can raise expectations when contacting poorly rated broadband, network, or television providers’ call centers. The difference, Hyken noted, is that an interruption in cable service is far more difficult to address.

Cable and Internet service providers clearly fail to meet customer expectations of good service. While the expectations may be too high in some instances, the poor ratings are more often due to specific customer service issues at these companies. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all on this year’s Hall of Shame. The presence of virtually the entire cable and network provider industry may itself explain the poor service. Without a competitive environment, Calkins explained, “companies are sometimes underpressured to deliver great customer service.”

In other words, without suitable alternatives for customers, these companies can essentially get away with bad customer service. In an email exchange with 24/7 Wall St., Praveen Kopalle, professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, gave the example of signing up for a two-year contract with a cable company. In these cases, “you feel like you are stuck with a monopoly.”

Most Americans also perceive the banking and financial industry negatively. On one hand, low public perception of banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America is likely due to the role they played in causing the latest recession. Each bank paid large fines to the federal government for issuing bad loans leading up to the housing and financial crises. In addition, it seems customers have no shortage of grievances with current large financial institutions’ customer service. When asked to choose the most bothersome aspect of big banks, the most commonly cited problem was poor service or unfair fees.

Kopalle gave one example of this poor service. At some large banks, if you open a checking account with a low balance, any transaction with a teller comes with a fee. Since in these cases the customer must go to an ATM for the transaction, Kopalle explained, “there is no customer service at all!”

This is 24/7 Wall St.’s Customer Service Hall of Shame.

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