The most disliked companies in America once again include airlines, utilities and banks, according to the latest cycle of ratings from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Service industries typically score worse than manufacturing because of limited competition and the difficulty of interacting with customers.
"Where companies have little or no competition or where customers encounter barriers to switching among competitors in terms of cost and/or convenience, companies may not need to satisfy their customers to the same degree in order to keep them," ACSI's David VanAmburg says.
This opens an opportunity for some companies like JetBlue, however, that can excel in unpopular industries.
ACSI's customer satisfaction rating has been shown to be strongly related to financial performance.
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The biggest gainers this year include Pepco rebounding 28% after a significant infrastructure overhaul; and Delta rising 16% after working the kinks out of the Northwest merger. The biggest losers include Northeast Utilities and Long Island Power Authority which plunged after power outages during massive storms.
#1 Long Island Power Authority
Rated 58/100. Seven point decline from last year.
The Long Island Power Authority is currently ranked the lowest in the energy utilities sector. The score plunged 11 percent in April alone.
Common complaints include rate hikes and overbilling mistakes linked to listing homes as commercial instead of residential. Hurricane Irene also led to widespread outages last August.
In January, a bill was passed requiring the utility to "undergo comprehensive and regular management and operations audits" and creating a new way for customers to file complaints.
#2 Northeast Utilities
Rated 59/100. 16-point decline from last year.
The company's reputation was severely damaged after two major storms at the end of 2011 caused massive power outages.
A destructive snow storm last October left hundreds of thousands of homeowners and businesses sitting in the dark without heat for up to two weeks. The extensive outages ultimately led to the resignation of the president of Northeast's subsidiary Connecticut Light & Power in November 2011.
New England's largest utility company is also at the center of a dispute with federal regulators over complaints by several states that it, along with other utilities, "are making excess profit," the AP reported.
#3 Charter Communications
Rated 59/100. The worst TV company.
Poor customer service and unfair billing practices are common complaints about the fourth-largest cable company in the country.
One customer explained, "The sales rep originally promised us a $42.95 a month for services, with an introductory price of $24.95 for the first 3 months (a savings of $18 a month). After the introductory period ended, the company started charging me $56.95, when I finally caught on that they were charging me $14 more per month than what is said on the Work Order (could provide at anytime for proof), he never once mentioned that there will be a $10 more per month, and now the company says if you have no other cable service with us (Charter Communications), you are to be charged $10 more per month!!"
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#4 Comcast (Television service)
Rated 61/100. The second-worst TV service.
Ever-unpopular media conglomerate Comcast has been blasted for early withdrawals, faulty equipment and unprofessional service technicians. One customer complained that a repairman lied about arriving 15 minutes late, another said a Comcast employee left equipment, including plastic wires and clips, all over his front lawn.
ASCI lists Comcast as a cable company (61/100) and a telephone company (67/100).
#5 United Airlines
Rated 62/100. The worst big airline.
It's no surprise that United Airlines has been dubbed the "the worst airline in America." In March, the carrier generated an unusually high amount of aggravation after a computer switchover following the airline's merger with Continental caused widespread flight delays.
Poor customer service, flight cancellations and lost baggage are other common gripes. One customer wrote, "It's unbelievable! I was charged twice, and I had to wait over an hour on the phone to talk about the overcharge on my credit card. This company has a serious problem. I will never fly United Airlines again!"
#6 Time Warner
Rated 63/100. A four-point improvement from last year.
Although the cable provider improved marginally since 2011, slow internet speeds, cable outages, disastrous customer service and high rates continue to cause frustration among users.
One customer vented, "TWC has destroyed my business and doesn't give a damn: I first complained five weeks ago about outages and miserable upload speeds. I need to send large files to clients. I've had two technicians visit, who both found it was in the neighborhood. Today, I found the situation has not changed and am told there's no further work order."
Customers also complain about being stuck with Time Warner because there are no competing services in the area.
#7 Cox Communications (Television Service)
Rated 63/100. Four-point decline from last year.
According to ACSI, "higher rates and fees for many Cox customers are sapping customer satisfaction."
One customer said the Atlanta-based company demanded money after changing the contract: "I setup 2yr service w/Cox —1st yr @ $29.99, 2nd @ $49.99. Now after 6mon they changed it to 1st 6mon @ $29.99, 2nd 6mon @ $49.99, and 1 year @ 79.99."
#8 American Airlines
Rated 64/100. The second-worst big airline.
The legacy airline, whose parent company, AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, has done a worse job of pleasing passengers than small, low-cost airlines such as Spirit or Frontier.
In a recent study, American ranked last among 10 major airlines at keeping customers informed, leaving them on hold for an average of 1 hour and 32 minutes and failing to respond to to questions on Twitter.
One traveler explains her frustration: "American Airlines canceled our flight one day before traveling to Mexico. We had to call and wait for over 30 minutes just to find out our refund will take one to two days. We needed our refund quick to make other arrangements to travel over Easter since they just screwed up our Easter travel. I will never use them again. No wonder they filed bankruptcy."
#9 US Airways
65/100. Four point improvement from last year.
Regular complaints include inaccurate billing, failing to notify passengers of flight delays and terrible service. One customer says he saw a crew member on a Charlotte to Toronto flight bullying a disabled elderly woman for asking to get her belongings out of a carry-on bag.
In November 2011, the airline was at the center of a PR nightmare after forcing a passenger to stand for seven hours because of an overweight man seated next to him. In the same month, the company was attacked for initially denying a ticket refund to a terminally ill cancer patient.
Meanwhile, the Arizona-based carrier is pushing for a merger with American Airlines, which experts note could result in less flights for some cities and higher airfares.
Rated 65/100. Nine-point improvement from last year.
Most of the complaints include customer representatives not responding in a professional manner.
Since acquiring Northwest airlines in 2008, Delta's consumer satisfaction score decreased rapidly and was at its lowest last year. The airline seems to have worked out some of the kinks last year.
Rated 66/100. Four points worse than last year. The worst fixed line telephone company.
Most common complaints include billing issues and customer representatives not being knowledgeable or helpful enough.
On Complaints Board, one user recently called the company "the devil," and said that "they lie about everything and do nothing. I have been having issues with my Internet for a year and they have yet to help," whereas another customer wrote that they've "had issues with century link employees flat out lying to about the bill."
The social site's common complaints include users' privacy and child safety.
One user wrote: "I had to change everything. I have not ever done anything. Customer support is non-existent. These people think we can't fight back. I'm talking to an attorney now. Facebook, you're not God."
When the company launched its Timeline feature, there was even greater concerns about its privacy settings. Zack Whittaker of Zdnet said that the new tool has made Facebook "stalking" even easier.
Rated 67/100. The worst health care provider.
The most common complaints include prescriptions co-pay being too high, withdrawing funds without authorization from clients and not being organized. One physician called the company "a big mystery" because (s)he can't get anyone to call him(her) back.
The consumer wrote: "I can't give up, because if I do, hundreds of my Aetna Patient's will have to find a new physician."
Rated 68/100. Actually one of the higher scoring companies in an unpopular industry.
The most common complaints for DirectTV are related to billing issues. On the Consumer Affairs forum, thousands of customers complain about how the company changes contract details without notifying customers and therefore, hiking prices without authorization.
One customer wrote: "DirectTV raised the price for 30% after one year and said that they told me about this verbally, which is not true. My agreed price with Saha on the phone, a DirecTV employee, was $56.99 including two receivers and one HD/DVR receiver. DirecTV overcharged me on my first bill. When I complained, they said they forgot to give me my 30% discount. So over the next six months, they kept revising my bill but never got it right."
#15 Bank of America
Rated 68/100. The worst big bank.
The bank was a major focus for the Occupy Wall Street movement and had to discontinue its $5 debit fee in November — only after adopting it for two months — following public outrage.
The bank is America's largest mortgage servicer and most of its complaints come from the mortgage division.
One customer wrote: "I completed a loan modification one year ago. However, BOA has botched up their system and does not post my payments. They have no problem collecting the money and reporting late payments to the credit agencies. Attempts to correct this for the past year have been fruitless. No one at BOA bothers to return calls or correct the problem with their electronic systems."
Rating provided by ACSI. Customer comments gathered from Consumer Affairs and other consumer forums.
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