Special Report

Customer Service Hall of Shame

Time Warner Cable
Source: Wikimedia Commons

3. Time Warner Cable
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 24.3%

More than half of all customers surveyed reported a negative experience with Time Warner Cable, making the company one of only three with a majority of respondents reporting such a bad experience. Of those, roughly half rated their experience as poor, the worst possible review.

Often, having some of the nation’s worst customer service does not hurt a company as much as one might expect. Time Warner Cable may be one such example, as the company reported revenue of $28.1 billion in 2015, up 6.3% from fiscal 2013. Notably, the cable giant also invested $4.1 billion to improve its customer experience.

Earlier this year, Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable for $60 billion. The new company is now the second largest cable company after Comcast, and the third largest pay-TV company behind AT&T and Comcast — which are also in this year’s Customer Hall of Shame. Being larger, it seems, does not improve customer satisfaction.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Sprint Nextel  (NYSE: S)
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 25.1%

Given the highly satisfied customers of phone makers Samsung and Apple, both of which made the Customer Service Hall of Fame this year, Americans seem to love their cell phones but dislike the network providers. More than one-quarter of survey respondents reported a poor customer experience with Sprint Nextel, trailing only Comcast for the worst customer service of any U.S. company.

Sprint Nextel has struggled to compete with larger providers such as Verizon and AT&T. Recently, however, due in part to an aggressive advertising campaign, the company seems to be on a comeback. In the first quarter of 2016, the company reported a 173,000 net increase in the number of postpaid phone subscribers. This was a considerable improvement over net subscriber losses in previous periods and, for the first time in five years, Sprint gained more subscribers from its three biggest rivals than it lost to them.

While Sprint stock has surged over the past year, some investors are likely waiting to see if the company can hold onto its new subscribers. Doing so may hinge on the quality of customer service.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Comcast  (NASDAQ: CMCSA)
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 27.8%

No company’s customer service is more reviled than Comcast’s — 27.8% of customers surveyed rated Comcast’s customer service as poor. According to data provided to technology news company Ars Technica through a freedom of information request, the FCC receives more complaints about Comcast than about AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable combined. Comcast’s enormous national presence could partially explain the larger number of complaints. Comcast Corporation operates the largest cable network in the country and owns television networks such as NBC, entertainment business Universal Pictures, and multiple theme parks.

As customer service expert Hyken noted, the expectations of Comcast customers are extremely high. Also, when the company’s services fail, as in the interruption of a favorite TV show, customers easily become dissatisfied and solutions are much more difficult to find compared to many other industries.

More than 40% of survey respondents said that the excessively high rates are what bothers them most with cable companies. One of the most common complaints to the FCC relates to billing, particularly from customers who thought they had unlimited data when in fact they were responsible for fees for going over a data cap.

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