Customer Service: 3 Companies That Got It Way Wrong

Dec 29, 2015

hand removing mistake flat design customer service
There are plenty of businesses with mediocre customer service and then there are those that are just bad. Rotten apples to the core.

A lot of larger companies can find customer service to be an additional expense and something that is only needed when the customer has an issue. The thing is that great customer service should start from the moment your customers reach out to you. It should be as important to your business as your revenue because your customer service strategy will ultimately have a deep impact on your bottom line.

This past March Temkin Group released their Experience Ratings list. We’re going to have a look at three of the companies that are the lowest rated: Comcast, Ramada Inn and Bank of America. Let’s find out!


Comcast didn’t make the worst on the Temkin Experience Ratings list for 2015, but they are listed at 291 out of 293. And this is nothing new for the company: they were voted as having the worst customer service in 2014.

There isn’t a better example of poor customer service from Comcast than this 8 minute call recording that was made by Ryan Block, a Comcast customer attempting to cancel his service. The recording starts 10 minutes into the call. For the duration of the a nearly 20 minute call with the Comcast representative, Block is badgered for his reasoning for switching providers. The rep is ultra aggressive and, at one point in the call, tells Block he can’t switch off the service and that Block would need to go to an actual store. He later admits that he can indeed turn the service off over the phone.

Comcast put out a statement not long after the recording was put up on SoundCloud stating they had reached out to Block to personally apologize. They noted that the way that the representative spoke to Block was inconsistent with Comcast training methods.

“…We are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”

Giving a statement is a step in the right direction. Reaching out to the customer personally to issue an apology is also good. The big question: Why wasn’t the customer service rep just helpful in the first place? Why wasn’t he more genuine instead of touting services? Comcast claims that call wasn’t consistent with how their CSRs are trained, yet the multiple stories and testimonials from other comcast customers indicated that this is a systemic issue, and not the result of one rep’s bad decisions.

Ramada Inn

This well-known hotel chain landed at 277 on the Temkin Experience Ratings list for 2015 – not so favorable. We had to wonder: what is so terrible about the Ramada Inn? It’s an old hotel stand-by for weary travellers and tourists alike. What’s so bad about the customer service at these hotels?

Well, according to the Consumer Affairs site, the hotel chain has barely over a one-star rating. The site also has 163 negative reviews that have a common thread: the hotel staff and customer care is a huge problem. In addition, Ramada Inn consistently lands on worst-of lists. This one from The Fiscal Times says despite the fact that the Ramada chain is supposed to be a step up, it receives lower scores than several budget chains. A JD Power survey gave it a “worst than the rest” rating in all categories.

One of the best reviews from Consumer Affairs highlights the company-wide issue of poor service, as well as a lack of customer safety.

Upon leaving our room for the day at 11am and returning to our room after 4pm, we noticed that our room was left open by housekeeping with the safety latch, leaving the door ajar. We immediately contacted the front desk to report the incident and they advised that since it was a long weekend no manager was on staff until Tuesday morning, so they sent up the house cleaning manager. I then contacted the head office to only have them indicate that the hotel is privately owned and franchised and they deferred the entire matter to the franchisee. After the incident, we packed up our iPads and such and stored them in the trunk of our vehicle when we were not in attendance as it just wasn’t safe to leave the contents like in the room. I have never even had to feel that insecure with my belongings even when I frequently stay in hostels all over the world. Unacceptable!

Not only was management AWOL because of the holiday weekend, but the corporate office deffered the customer back to the management of the hotel itself. This was an opportunity for the customer service at the corporate level to take the reigns and turn a bad customer service situation around. They could have won back a customer. Instead, they put the issue back into the hands of the customer. What about the customer’s safety? People put a lot of trust in the staff of a hotel to take care that they and their belongings are safe. To break that trust is to lose customers.

Bank of America

Widely known for it’s extremely poor customer service, Bank of America lands on a lot of those worst-of lists; it’s been a part of the Customer Service Hall of Shame every year since 2009. Poor customer ratings with banks are often associated with fees the customers are charged.

Many customers are leaving the banking giant in favor of smaller, independent banks with fewer or lower fees. On Consumer Affairs, one reviewer claimed that she was charged $7 dollars per page when she needed some records printed. Many people complain about the abundant overdraft fee of $35 dollars. Some even complained about their accounts being closed without any notice at all.

“As soon as you take out your Bank of America ATM card you get charged,” said Praveen Kopalle, professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Even an economist and Harvard professor closed his accounts with Bank of America.

Another ding: In April 2014, Bank of America reached a record settlement of $17 billion for its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities to its customers prior to the 2008 financial crash, causing many of their customers to lose their homes to foreclosure. The securities were promoted as a sound investment for homeowners and were sold to customers who would be unlikely to pay back their loans.

“[Banks] assured customers that [mortgage-backed securities] were actually good products when, in fact, they were pretty toxic,” Kopalle said

It would seem as if financial institutions would want to create a sense of trust in their customers: make them feel safe and like their money is in good hands. Instead, Bank of America uses fees and bad mortgage deals that are shady at best. Offering a product that will ultimately harm your customers is just plain bad business. Not helping them when they are confused because of your services is off the rails customer service.

Key Takeaways

There is simply nothing more infuriating than a company who appears to not care about its customers. Understandably, the larger a company becomes the harder it is to reign in a customer service strategy and ensure quality standards are being met for training, whether that is for customer service representatives or franchise owners. Here are some strategies you can apply to your business to avoid being on one of those worst of business lists:

  1. Give a damn about your customers. They are the lifesource of your business and without them, your business is gone. If you legitimately care about the happiness of your customers, good customer service will come naturally to your company.
  2. Take accountability for customer complaints and then act on them. You have the power to make a difference: change policies and procedures to ensure the same issue doesn’t arise again. Acknowledging accountability and taking action is one way to make sure your customers don’t go elsewhere.
  3. Make them feel safe. Whether your business is e-commerce or a movie theater, there are measures your business can take to make sure your customer is comfortable and unafraid of giving you their business.

The disheartening truth is that it is completely possible for these companies to have enviable customer service. There are many large corporations that take great pains in making sure their customers have a top notch experience. It may cost more off the top, but it will always return in the form of additional customers.

We’d like to hear from you! What’s the worst customer experience you’ve ever had? Tell us in the comments.


Stephanie Jones

Stephanie Jones is a content writer and the social media manager for PATLive. She works from her cave, er, her home in Fayetteville, Ark., with her trusty dog and curmudgeonly cat by her side.

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