How to Become a Business That People Hate

A new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) provides some fascinating insights into which industries consumers love—and hate.

The organization, which ranks businesses on a 0-to-100 scale (lower is worse), found that the most reviled private industries include subscription TV services (63), Internet service providers (63), fixed-line telephone services (69) and wireless telephone services (70). All of these ranks even lower than airlines (71).

Among the bottom-rated companies were Time Warner Cable (51), Comcast (54) and Charter Communications ISP (57).

These findings aren’t all that surprising. It takes very little effort to uncover widespread complaints about these industries and companies. While it’s possible to dismiss any given complaint at any given time, the overall pattern demonstrates that something is wrong, and it’s fairly systematic.

A common denominator? A general disregard for customers.

For example, new customers get the best deals and longtime customers typically get shafted. After any introductory period, it’s necessary to call the company and negotiate a new deal. Otherwise, the bill jumps by $25 or $50 per month.

Once that special pricing period runs out, the monthly bill quietly sneaks up again. If you notice the increase, you’ve got to go back on the phone to negotiate all over again.

Canceling a service or subscription is often a nightmare. A friend recently found himself placed on hold and transferred to a different representative when he tried to pull the plug on a service. He had to explain everything once again to the new rep.

Then that rep placed him on hold and transferred him to yet another rep. Again, he had to explain everything to that individual. This happened three times. Nearly an hour later, after demanding a supervisor, he was finally able to cancel the service.

Alas, many of the companies that ranked poorly in the ACSI survey are monopolies or companies battling digital disruption (and often both). They often adopt a protectionist mindset.

However, their days are numbered. Technology is causing cracks that will soon become fissures that will later lead to a chasm of disruption that may threaten the existence of these companies. Think Blockbuster and Eastman Kodak.

Here’s the thing: You can get away with bad business practices and crappy service when consumers don’t have options. If you’re not willing to invest in solid business practices and build IT systems to fully support customers, you may—at least for a while—continue to rake in profits with a brand name that’s tarnished or despised.

However, when the equation and technology tilt, you will watch helplessly as your business slides into oblivion.