Drum roll, please … Welcome to The Venture’s 2012 Worst Customer Service Awards, the annual showcase of Australian companies that wasted your time and money with appalling service.
Now in their fourth year, the Worst Customer Service Awards have received hundreds of comments from angry consumers who eagerly named and shamed repeat service offenders – and have given terrific insights into Australia’s epidemic of deteriorating, disinterested customer service.
Cast your vote in the 2012 awards by commenting on this blog. The categories are:
1. Australian company with the worst customer service in 2012
2. Worst example of customer service
3. The company with the biggest decline in customer service
4. Most frustrating call centre, billing department, or confusing billing information
Three categories have been added to give salespeople their chance to comment. I feel sorry for some sales people who provide poor service and bear the brunt of customer anger because their dimwitted employers refuse to employ enough staff, or go out of their way to make life miserable for salespeople.
Sales staff should vote in the following categories:
5. Worst company to work for as a salesperson and why
6. Worst “inside” example of an employer cutting service at the expense of staff and customers
7. Best example of an unreasonable, difficult customer expecting too much service
In 2009, telecommunication companies, notably Telstra, won the worst service gong. In 2010, water, gas, electricity and other utility providers infuriated customers. Department stores were the big winners last year, with Myer in particular annoying customers with bad service.
To be fair, I’ve seen some service laggards improve in the past year. The banks cop plenty, but the Commonwealth was a pleasure to deal with when my wife spotted a taxi company had slugged our credit card for a $50 trip we never made, in a part of the city we have never visited. The CBA refunded the amount, quickly and pleasantly over the phone.
Department store service is as bad as ever, but I wonder if a “tipping point” has been reached where consumers no longer expect personal service. They know the fastest way to get served in a department store is to pretend to shoplift, and that it takes forever to pay for goods. With expectations that low, I expect stores to fare better in this year’s survey. Are there any online retailers that deserve a mention this year for terrible customer service?
I’ve even found Telstra easier to deal with this year, after a good experience last year. I can’t say the same for Vodafone. I cancelled my mobile service with Vodafone, then received a paper bill for the next few months telling me I had no outstanding bill. Now I have another Vodafone bill, presumably a charge for the paper bill that told me I had no bill (the paper bill costs extra).
My early tip for the 2012 Worst Customer Service Award is a petrol chain. Funny how the one near me (its initials are BP) is always low on fuel when petrol prices are down, yet miraculously well stocked when prices are high. Only two of its 12 pumps worked the other day. So many cars had to queque into a main road that it became a serious traffic hazard, but what do the petrol companies care?
My neighbour was furious when the petrol pump reset just as he pulled up for fuel. When it came back online, the price per litre had jumped more than 10 cents, adding several dollars to the cost of filling the tank. The oil price had barely changed that week and the Australian dollar was steady, yet the petrol price had jumped in a matter of minutes as he waited for the pump to reset. His complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) went nowhere.
I cannot enter my petrol station without being hounded to buy car polish or some other car accessory, or can’t pay for petrol without being asked to buy a chocolate bar near its expiry date. Don’t even get me started on insane prices that petrol stations charge for consumer goods. If you have had a bad petrol station experience, add your comment to this blog.
I’ll tally up the comments and report the results in next week’s The Venture.