The illustrated 2018 customer service fail awards - exclusive personal edition

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed December 14, 2018
Companies work hard to earn the distinction of "worst customer service you received this year." It's only fair they get their just reward. Here's mine - complete with illustrations of services not rendered.

I've been holding out on you. On the downlow, I've been saving a few customer service fails that (mostly) haven't been used in hits and misses.

So without further ado, I now issue my personal customer service fail awards for 2018 - along with a few quips and lessons from the hard way.

Hearty congratulations to all the winners. It takes determination, and a true dedication to the spirit of indifference, to get to the bottom - thank you for your continued (dis)service.

1. The "our relationship won't change, even when we cancel your cherished services" award

Winner: American Express

In late August (or so), American Express, without advance notice of any kind, cancelled a lost wallet and lost keys program I truly valued. The biggest loss? A passport replacement service, with connections to embassies for help. An excerpt from their indifferent letter:


Yes, American Express has the right to cancel unprofitable services a segment of customers are passionate about. One downside of our algorithmic era: unit profitability is easier to measure, but the implications of cancelling cherished services - that's a lot harder to measure. But when Amex writes:

We want to assure you that this will not impact your relationship with American Express.

Wrong - that's for me to decide. As I told the despondent customer service rep, who sounded like she was probably losing her job as a result of the Lost Wallet division liquidation:

I feel sorry for the next American Express salesperson who calls me.

2. The "replace this human with a bot as soon as possible" award.

Winner: Amazon

Generally, I like dealing with humans over bots. But not always, as this overly-trained Amazon chat support worker proved. Amazon made some crummy service decisions this year, one of which was requiring a voice shopping activation to continue using Alexa "to do lists," without informing consumers of the change. The lists just stopped working. This chat worker had the unfortunate job of explaining this change to me. But I didn't care for his rigidly scripted/impossibly upbeat bedside manner:


Look out for the bots - they're coming for you.

3. The "thanks for helping us launch our service, now we'll slowly take away features you care about in exchange for your loyalty" award.


We've all experienced the classic bait-and-switch of the free service that continues to "pivot" until everything you once loved about the service is taken away, or moved to a paid tier. put on an absolute master class in this, nibbling away at free services, determined to force businesses of any size onto a paid platform - not matter how loyal they were or how much they promoted the service until achieved the critical mass to stick it to them. Not necessarily in order,

  • reduced the number of social profiles you could post to, down to a paltry two and finally down to one.
  • capped the number of "scoops" on a free profile at fifty, forcing curators to trash years of curated work.
  • removed the RSS feeds for free accounts, thereby tying the hands of those who wanted to monitor feeds and promote topics.

A sample of the ire:


"Going worse and worse" - indeed. But hey, on the bright side, they got to the bottom and won an award. And yes - there was a better path for Scoop: harnessing the power of professional curators to influence enterprise buyers. I'm worth a lot more to recommending their services than I am nickel and diming me into a paid service I don't want or need. And no, I don't recommend their services. Unless you want a curation service that doesn't listen.

4. The Godaddy "Dude, your site's down award"

Winner: Diigo bookmarks

A while back, Diigo had a no good, very bad day:


Don't know about you, but this strikes me as an unplanned outage. But hey, it's good to know that your data and content is 100 percent secure. Not sure where that data is at the moment, but hey, it's in there somewhere. We'll be sure to check back soon.

5. The "I can't believe you didn't include Facebook on this list" award

Winner: Facebook

Ask and you shall receive:


Unfortunately, some of Zuckerberg and Sandberg's friends turned out to be criminals, purveyors of fact-starved, manipulative content and privacy-indifferent data scammers, but hey - at least we're all friends here!

6. The "Okay, this is a bit awkward, but we still value your business" award

For a short period, diginomica was a SocialPilot customer. I'm not trashing the service; it just wasn't right for our needs. During that time, we had to change the customer plan, and got this friendly note:


Hey, if you can't be upgraded, getting yourself downgraded is the next best thing!

7. The "Jon screws up too" award

Winner: Jon Reed

I am hardly immune from such miscues. I'd like to think I learn from them and come back better than before, but yeah, I step in it too. From this week's hits and misses:

I had a big ol’ whiff of my own this week, when I had the idiotic carelessness good sense to introduce a typo into my final draft of the Want a better project? piece. Den flagged it, but before I fixed it, I grabbed this screen shot:



Hey, sometimes you have to just work with your Adidas a little bit. Then you can advocate your retail issues to SAP. Yeah, I try to suck less every day, but I don’t always succeed. The bright side is tomorrow, always looming thank goodness.

Yes, there were much bigger service and social media fails than these. But, only these folks have the honor of my plaque. Speaking of which, I'm off to the dentist to get that removed.


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