Customer Service Hall of Shame

I came across an interesting article today on MSN Money. Last April, MSN asked their readers to tell them about their worst customer service experience and within 24 hours, over 3000 responses came in. Seeing an opportunity in those kind of numbers, MSN has partnered with Zogby International to create conduct an online national survey that gathered feedback on the 20 companies most mentioned in the original response. The results of that survey have been published as “MSN Money’s Customer Experience Hall of Shame”.

Not surprisingly, Sprint Nextel came out on the bottom with a whopping 40% of respondents who had an opinion of Sprint’s customer service saying it was poor; and this was before Sprint made news last July for firing their customers. The remainder of the bottom 10 all had poor ratings of 20% or more.

The article goes on to point out that the bottom 10 all share one thing in common which is that their customers have very few alternatives. I discussed this same concept following the Sprint story last summer: Companies who have little competition in the marketplace aren’t compelled to differentiate on customer service. Interestingly, most of the “Dishonorable Mentions” in the Hall of Shame are retailers who’s markets are highly competitive with increasingly downward pricing pressure. In other words, a group focused on cost cutting.

As part of the Hall of Shame survey MSN invited CEOs from the companies to respond. Predictably, most of the responses listed in the article are defensive and tout the investments the companies are making to improve. Sprint touted their new billing system which arguably saves them a load of cash by reducing paper costs. But they also discussed the “Buzz About Wireless” community site which includes a customer-service-focused message board where customer can “rant” about their experiences. They also set up a mailbox in response to the MSN Hall of Shame for customers to share their experiences via e-mail.

So it appears that Sprint is finally listening. If you are a Sprint customer, I’d love to hear if you’ve seen any improvements since last July. After all, actually making real changes in the customer experience is what really matters. Listening is just the first step.

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