Will the company with the worst customer service in America please stand up and take a bow?
Ah, if it only were that easy.
Turns out there are multiple lists of “worst” companies and they’re hardly unanimous in naming a winner – or in this case, a loser.
For example, here’s the latest MSN/Zogby poll:
1. Bank of America
3. Capital One
5. Time Warner
9. JPMorgan Chase
10. Farmers Insurance
Here are the bottom 10 for service in a recent Nunwood survey of top 100 companies.
2. Office Depot
3. US Bank
5. US Airways
And here’s a crowdsourced ranking of customer service bottom-feeders:
2. Time Warner
3. Bank of America
5. American Airlines
8. Gold’s Gym
No clear winner, right? But if you’re a savvy customer, you can see patterns.
Several companies made two of the three lists. They include AOL, Bank of America and Time Warner. By most accounts, these are deeply troubled companies with long histories of ignoring customer complaints. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by advising you to exercise care before doing business with them.
Some industries are well represented.
Cable, telecommunication and several other industries make all three lists. Which of them is the worst offender? I asked readers of my CBS
Interactive column to vote on the standout industry, and they voted for cable (35 percent) followed closely by banks (31 percent), telecommunications companies (25 percent) and insurance (9 percent). An honorable mention goes to the airline industry.
Bad publicity = bad service.
It would be a mistake to look at all three lists and not recognize that certain companies are being punished for being in the news. For example, does BP really offer bad service at the pump, or is it being dinged for the Deepwater Horizon explosion? Are banks and insurance companies offering inferior service, or are they being marked down because of the bailout? I think bad publicity can weigh on a company’s reputation.
Even without a clear loser, you can eyeball these lists and get a pretty good idea of what to expect when you’re buying from one of these companies.
To be sure, being on one of these lists is a bad sign.
Making it twice? Consider that a warning.
And yes, sometimes there’s no escape from bad service.