As a public service to our wonderful readers, BrightReviews is launching a brand new series of articles designed to help you avoid some of the most common “sins” television marketers commit. Read, learn, and share these tips so you and your loved ones don’t get burned. First we disclosed Sin #1 (Sneaky Pricing), then Sin #2 (The Upsell) and now… Sin #3 aka Customer Service From Hell!

Lousy Customer Service is not just an isolated incident with a rogue employee; no, this is a systematic scheme by these unscrupulous businesses, designed to deter you from achieving what you want: your money back… and perhaps an apology! 

Why would a company want to have, let alone encourage bad customer service? There are so many articles and studies on the web about the importance of good customer service and lots of statistics that show how a good experience boosts sales. Some of these oft-cited stats include:

  • A 2% increase in customer retention translates into a 10% reduction of costs.
  • 89% of customers say they stop doing business with a company because of a bad customer service experience.
  • 78% have abandoned a purchase due to poor customer service.
  • They are 4 times as likely to switch to a competitor when this happens.

BUT here are the most significant statics, at least to a shady company:

  • 96% of unhappy customers DON’T complain.
  • For every ONE customer that does complain, there are 28 who stay SILENT.

These types of companies may hide behind a product name, with little or no contact information listed on their website. They are not interested in a long-term relationship with a customer. They usually create a flashy commercial for a product and a one-page website. The company then buys airtime around the US, often late at night or mid-afternoon when the rates are cheap. Because television reaches so many people, it is likely a few people will place an order. Often customer service is outsourced, sometimes to another country.

By making the experience as unpleasant as possible, they try make those few that do attempt, abandon their effort. Here are some of these shady marketers’ most common tricks:

1. Having an email address for contact (or online form) and no phone number.
According to some reports, 95% of customer interactions occur via the telephone. If they can cut out phone contact entirely, they have put up a huge barrier that relatively few will attempt to hurdle. A study by Kiss Metrics found that 58% of customers polled had this experience.

2. Automated Customer Service or Voicemail.
If they do list a number, they make it very difficult to speak to an actual person. There may be just an answering machine promising someone will get back to you “right away.” Or, they may make it sound like you are being connected, and then put you on hold as long as possible, hoping you hang up.

3. Rude customer service representatives.
According Experian, poor customer service is the number one complaint of shoppers (69.7%). So, why does it sometimes seem as if they purposely hire people to be rude, or, in the case of the recent Comcast phone call recorded by a customer, downright disturbing:

Current and former Comcast employees have a website charmingly entitled Comcast Must Die where they anonymously describe it as a high-stress high-pressure environment. Some have said they were forced to sign a contract promising to make additional sales or they could be terminated amongst, other complaints.

Comcast may be the most famous (current) example, but they are certainly not alone. Again, because statistically so few people complain, these companies think by making the process as difficult as possible, many more will simply give up after an attempt.

And if you do manage get through to a real live customer service rep, sometimes they will:

  • Ask you to call another number.
  • Ask to call you back.
  • Say their computers are down.
  • Try to sell you something else.
  • Not take “no” for an answer.

Or anything else they can think of to stall, delay, and possibly deter you from getting your money back.  And, once again, even if you do “win,” they will keep any S & H fees they charged and you most likely have to pay shipping fees to return it.

What You Can Do To Fight Back

When you’ve been banished to Customer Service Hell, it can be frustrating as… heck. Here are some important things to do to avoid it:

  • Check out the customer service before purchasing. Make sure the website has a working phone number where you can reach a real person. Avoid buying from automated systems or voicemails.
  • Look up the company on the Better Business Bureau website to see if they are accredited, rated, or even have a listing. In addition to giving businesses an A to F rating, they also list the number of complaints and details of the problems. (There was some recent controversy with the BBB where it was reported by ABC’s 20/20 that they give higher ratings to those companies that pay a membership fee; the BBB claims they have changed this policy.)
  • If you do purchase something, ask for the company to pay return shipping, especially if it’s a big item. While this policy may not be listed, it never hurts to ask and could end up saving you money. 
  • If you are having problems with a customer service representative, note their name. Ask to speak to a supervisor. Take notes during the phone call.
  • Even if they are rude, always try to be professional and polite. Getting mad at them will certainly not help anything!
  • If you do not get satisfaction, report the experience to the BBB.
  • Be sure to tell us about it here at BrightReviews! We can’t help you get your money back, but we can help spread awareness and prevent others from falling victim. However, we do know that many of these companies indeed read this site and reviews of their products. Very soon we will be connecting companies to their customers in a mutually beneficial arrangement. (More details soon!)

If they none of this helps, you may need to step up your efforts. We’ll call these Level 2 Complaints, and they can involve contacting local agencies, federal agencies, conducting a negative social media campaign, or, perhaps even hiring a lawyer.

We have found a couple of excellent resources for how to go about this that we’d like to share with you:

We hope this helps. Let us know what you think below! Stay tuned for Sin #4…!