Best and Worst Customer Service of 2019

Best and Worst Customer Service of 2019

customer service awards

So it is that time again for me to praise the companies that provided great customer service over the last year and to name & shame those should be embarrassed at the abysmal excuse for customer service they have provided.

In the list this year we have.

  • Guru Cloud Hosting
  • Anker
  • People Per Hour
  • Zen Internet
  • Gradwell
  • Bitdefender
  • Europe Registry
  • Google
  • Trustpilot

THE GOOD


These are the companies who have impressed me the most and provided exceptional customer service, above and beyond what I would expect. I really wish there were more like this.

guru hosting review

I transferred my web hosting to Guru in Feb 2019 after spending about 10 months (too long) with Siteground and finally getting fed up with their terrible customer service/support.

IT has now been almost 1 year with GURU and I still do not have a single complaint to make about them, which coming from me is quite a testament to how good they are. Unlike many hosting providers, they do not pass the buck at every opportunity (GoDaddy and SiteGround should learn this), they actually make every effort to help you and solve problems for you.

Also unlike most other hosts I have used, the support team are not jobsworths and do not give out incorrect or incompetent advice, at least not to date. Every support person I have dealt with actually has the requisite technical skills and knowledge and knows what they are doing.

Oh and the response times are very good as well, I have not yet had reason to complain that it took too long to get a reply to a support ticket. Sometimes it is annoying when they refuse to help via live chat and insist on opening a ticket. I know they do this for security reasons, but this could be avoided by simply asking for the security question/answer on the account, but that is literally my only qualm.

You can read my full review here

Anker customer service review

I have purchased a few Anker products over the last few years and so far I have been very happy with both the quality and customer service.

Back in 2018 I purchased an Anker ergonomic mouse due to developing RSI, but while it is a perfectly good product, sadly my RSI was so bad that it didn’t help. When I commented on this in my Amazon review, they contacted me directly and offered to send me an alternative mouse to see if that would help my RSI, completely free of charge.

I will note that I have since had physiotherapy for my RSI, and using this mouse is significantly better than a regular mouse, which causes me pain within minutes.

Best and Worst Customer Service of 2019 1
Anker Ergonomic mouse

Fast forward to 2019, I started having some random problems with the mouse, it would just randomly freeze and stop moving and one of the thumb buttons stopped working. I contacted Anker support, not really expecting much since I expected it was out of warranty anyway.

Once again Anker offered to send me a replacement mouse, for free, no questions asked. So to date, I have now had 3 ergonomic mice from them and only paid for one of them.

This is well above and beyond the level of customer service you get from most companies, in fact I cannot think of a single other company that gone quite this far, except in a “we just want you to go away” type situation.

I do somewhat suspect that this may be in an effort to ensure they maintain positive reviews on Amazon, but they never asked me to adjust my original review, I chose to do that off my own back, so I am still happy none the less.

The Bad


These are the companies which while not a complete failure, have been disappointing, let me down on multiple occasions and could certainly do better.

peopleperhour scam

Peopleperhour is a popular freelancer website which I have been using for the last year or so to do various freelance work such as IT support, PCI compliance testing, website design etc.

There are a number of issues with PPH, such as the extortionate 20% commission they take from the freelancers and then charge us 20% VAT on the money we are earning rather than charging it to the buyer, which I think is a complete rip-off, but that is another matter for another post.

When it comes to customer service, how good or bad it depends on your issue. For general enquiries and questions, the customer service is not too bad, the issue is when you have a problem with not getting paid, then you suddenly discover that PPH are completely biased toward the buyer.

I have had several instances where I have done work for someone on PPH, and they have decided to rip me off and not to pay me, which unfortunately is very easy as all the buyer needs to do is reject your invoice and it’s game over.

There is an escrow type deposit system, which PPH claims protects the freelancer, where you request a deposit amount, which the buyer must pay in advance when accepting a proposal. But in reality, it is useless and makes no difference whatsoever, as regardless of the deposit, the buyer can still just refuse to pay the invoice and request a refund of the deposit.

If you find yourself in such a situation, even if it is 100% clear that you have done the work, PPH customer service will do nothing to help and will side with the buyer every single time, even though it is the freelancer who pays their salary at the end of the day. We earn all the money, do the work and pay their commissions, but get nothing in return.

You will literally beat your head against a brick wall trying to get PPH support to see common sense or logic, they simply don’t care. Which is very backwards when you think about it logically, as pissing off a freelancer is going to lose them a lot more than pissing off a buyer.

The only response you can get from PPH is to “ask for a higher deposit”, which as mentioned above is completely pointless and only benefits PPH, as they can refuse to refund the deposit to the buyer as well, thus keeping the money for themselves.

PPH need to stop being so greedy, give more rights to the freelancers and treat us with more respect, as without us they would have no business.

Best and Worst Customer Service of 2019 2

I have been a customer of Zen Internet for about 15 years now. At my former company, we used Zen at the office, all staff had a Zen connection at home and I have also had Zen business at home for the last 10 years or so. During this time I have also referred many friends, colleagues and clients to them.

I chose Zen originally due to their massively positive customer feedback and reviews, and I stayed with them due to those reviews being true, i.e. the superior customer service and support and the reliability of the connection.

When Zen started offering mobile services as well, I transferred all our mobile contracts over to them too, expecting the same level of service. But alas this is where everything started to go downhill. it is the common issue where the bigger a company gets, the worse their customer service gets.

I had not needed to contact Zen customer service very often in the past, as we rarely ever had any issues with the broadband at the office or at home, but this changed with the mobile service and I found myself needing to contact them on a regular basis.

The customer service & support from the mobile team was absolutely terrible. Since they were basically just reselling EE, they couldn’t do anything directly, and just act as a man in the middle between you and EE, needing to contact EE customer service about every issue. So as a business service it is pretty pointless.

To cut a long story short, when I originally signed up I told the salesman I intended to use the service for business and personal use and it would be used by my wife and kids too and as such I asked about parental controls and the ability to block content etc. I was advised this was fine and that yes the parental controls Indeed existed and were available.

This advice I later learnt was completely wrong and when I had issues with the lack of security/parental controls I was quite rudely and arrogantly lambasted for giving phones to my kids, even though it was them who said their service was suitable for this. Needless to say that I transferred my mobile services away from Zen after this and I am now with EE directly, which so far has been a lot better service.

SO I certainly cannot recommend Zen Internet mobile for either business or personal use.

Sadly this was only the start of customer services going downhill, it does seem to have been getting gradually worse over the last few years, support has become less helpful, responses have become slower, often requiring emails to be chased for a response.

During a recent support issue, I was quite shocked when they sent me a loan router with absolutely no packaging or protection whatsoever. Turns out this is not a one-off either, as I discovered this is also how they post out brand new routers as well.

This is highly likely to result in damaged routers, which means any issues will automatically be blamed on your line, meaning you will be charged for an engineer call out since he will, of course, find no problem with the line.

Everyone knows how couriers treat parcels these days (especially Hermes) and everyone who posts packages on a regular basis knows that you have to use adequate protection in order to avoid items getting damaged in transit.

Best and Worst Customer Service of 2019 3
This is how ZEN post the routers, ZERO packaging or protecting, just 2mm of cardboard,

A recent issue with their sales dept essentially resulted in me cancelling a new order within 1 week, Zen then tried to blackmail me into a 24 month contract, which has left me very disappointed indeed considering how long I have been a customer, sadly proving once again that customer loyalty means nothing to some companies.

I no longer feel there is any benefit at all in paying more for their business service over a basic residential service and do not believe the customer service/support is any better as a result, but sadly they will not let me downgrade my service without being forced into a 24 month contract.

It is not yet bad enough to make me want to cancel my broadband services as the broadband service itself is still good and reliable and I rarely ever have issues, and I know many other providers have much worse customer service. But it is a real shame they have lost their great customer service USP.

gradwell customer service review

just like Zen above, Gradwell is another provider who used to have really great customer services and was a pleasure to deal with, but this has gone downhill as the company has grown.

Once again I have been a customer of Gradwell for many years through multiple companies. I currently use them for both my business and my wife’s business and a personal VOIP number.

The once stellar customer service team have now become slow and unresponsive, regularly taking days or weeks to reply to tickets and often needing to be chased multiple times to get any response at all and getting through on the phone is equally as difficult.

When you do get a response they are often obtuse and disingenuous and require multiple back and forth (sometimes over several weeks) to get a more helpful response or a solution to the problem.

I used to be happy to recommend Gradwell to people, but I now find myself looking at alternative VOIP providers.

Bitdefender

Bitdefender is one of if not the best anti-malware, cybersecurity product on the market. It does a lot more than most other AV products, has better protection and gets better detection scores. The other top spot contender is Kaspersky.

While I do concur that it is a very good product and I would recommend it as a cybersecurity solution for both personal and business use (not the parental controls though, this sucks), the customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

We all know that most level 1 tech support people working for large corporations are just monkey’s giving answers from a knowledge base and very rarely have any actual technical skills or know what they are talking about.

When you are dealing with a security product you somehow expect their support to be better than everyone else right? But no, the tech support/customer service really is quite useless for the most part. Often not understanding how their own product works and giving out completely wrong and bad advice.

Once you have gone through the hopeless level1 support, who will most likely get you to needlessly uninstall and reinstall the software, and eventually get escalated to level2 via a support ticket, expect to wait many weeks for any response.

When you do finally get a response from level2, they will usually just ask you for the same information that you already provided to the level1 tech in the first place, which you will then have to point out they already have, which they can see by simply scrolling down and reading the ticket history.

Don’t expect a speedy response from level, every time you reply, you will be waiting for weeks for a response, often needing to chase them when it seems they forgot about you.

If you are a very self-sufficient technical person, then you probably won’t need to contact support anyway, but if you are the average user, who is not good with IT and tends to contact tech support a lot, I would probably look for an alternative product from a smaller company with better support.

Almost all of the issues which I have needed to contact them about are related to their parental control features, which are completely useless, and I do not recommend using them.

You can read my full review of Bitdefender parental controls here.

And The Ugly


These are the companies I have with who have the absolute worst customer services imaginable, in fact not even worthy to be called customer service.

Europe registry - the worst registrar in the world

I have worked with many different domain registrars over the last 20 years, from good to bad, but Europe Registry aka Instra Corporation Pty Ltd) is one of the worst, they are a complete nightmare.

To say their customer service and billing depts are incompetent would be a massive understatement. Dealing with them will leave you tearing hair out and screaming in frustration as they are unable to understand the most simple questions or perform the most simple tasks, requiring everything to be explained 10 different ways and repeated multiple times to multiple people.

I had a ticket open with this company requesting a very simple price update on a number of domains as we were being overcharged. All I wanted was for the price we were being charged to be updated to match the price on their website, simple right?

But this super simple request has dragged on for over 1 year and is still not resolved. IT took dozens upon dozens of emails and the involvement of multiple people, just to get them to understand this simple issue with the price. It then required sending them screenshots of their own website just to show them what their own prices were and demonstrate how they did not match our invoices. Honestly, it would have been easier to explain it to a 5-year-old child.

Another 10 months passed with no further responses or updates, and those very simple changes were still were not made. I chased them up recently and below is the final response I had from them, blankly refusing to update the prices (no discount was ever requested btw) and would thus continue overcharging.

europe registry suck

Even if you have to pay more, I would recommend staying far away from Europe Registry and using another registrar for your own sanity.

Google is evil

I have been a Google g suite partner/reseller for many years, and for the most part Google technical support is pretty good, especially when you consider the mammoth size of the company. It is certainly a lot better than Microsoft support.

The issue is with partner support (PPS) and I use the word support here very loosely, as there really isn’t any, the dept seems to be run by fraggles. I cannot think of a single time I have contacted partner support about any issue where it has not been a complete nightmare.

It is completely impossible to reach partner support by phone. They do not have a phone number you can call them on and they absolutely refuse to call you. Even other Google depts, such as tech support cannot contact PPS by phone.

The only way to communicate with PPS is an email support ticket, which usually takes several weeks for them to respond to every email. There have been several occasions where I have had to chase them for months for a response and on some occasions had to resort to contacting an EMEA concierge because PPS simply wouldn’t reply.

When you do get a response, it is very unlikely that the person who responds will have any idea how to deal with your issue, and it will usually need to be escalated to multiple other people until they finally find someone who actually has any idea how anything at Google actually works, which takes weeks at best.

Believe it or not, it actually took me about 6 months just to get some reseller pricing for some specific g suite related addons. Not one single person in PPS knew what their own pricing was. I lost count the number of different people that got involved in the ticket and the number of times I had to re-explain what I wanted.

So if you have an urgent issue that only PPS can deal with, then you are literally screwed as the only thing you can do is open a ticket and hope that someone responds quickly, if at all.

Thankfully as a g suite end user / direct customer, you will never have to deal with partner support.

Trustpilot cannot b e trusted

Everyone knows who Trustpilot are, and many know what a complete scam the site is, but not everyone has had the pleasure of dealing with their customer service team (aka compliance team).

If you are not aware of the nefarious and unethical way that Trustpilot runs their business and treats their users, then please read my Trustpilot – Can they be trusted article.

Since I regularly post reviews (good and bad), I sadly also have to regularly deal with Trustpilot compliance team whenever a legitimate review gets flagged for removal. Which is always a complete waste of time and an exercise in hair pullng, as the compliance team are dumber than a bag of marbles and always side with the paying advertiser no matter what evidence you provide to back up your review.

The only reason I even bothered to post reviews on Trustpilot at all is simply that it is so widely used and blindly trusted and some companies do not bother to monitor it or just don’t care because they get so many bad reviews it is too much effort, so your review stays intact.

I also post reviews on sitejabber.com which so far seems far more legit and to date, none of my reviews have been deleted, so I would recommend Sitejabber over Trustpilot any day. Of course I don’t know how they deal with malicious/fake reviews yet either.

On several occasions when I have posted a negative review about a company, the owner or representative of said company has retaliated by then posting false and malicious lies about me. Of course, getting these removed by the compliance team sheeple is nigh on impossible unless I am willing to sell my morals and sign up to Trustpilot as a paying business customer.

Trustpilot is likely going to re-appear on this list every single year as I cannot see their unethical practices changing any time soon. If you currently use Trustpilot, I suggest also posting your review son Sitejabber too.

Microsoft

It is probably no surprise to see Microsoft on this list, being one of the largest companies in the worst, they also have some of the worst customer services as well.

Every so often I will get a Windows issue that I cannot fix or has taken up too much of my time trying to fix and I will resort to contacting Microsoft support, as on the rare occasion you do find someone who actually knows what they are doing. Plus I used to have a support contract, so I could get escalated to level 2 after dealing with the level 1 muppets.

The most frequent issues I have had is with their family safety, which stops working on a regular basis on all of my kids machines and has been doing so since it was first introduced over 10 years ago. Their usual answer is always to delete all my kids accounts and start again.

In almost all cases the Microsoft level 1 support team have no idea what they are doing and will simply Google (or Bing) whatever issue you have contacted them about and just regurgitate that information or simply send you the link. 99.9% of the time I already tried everything they tell me to do since I already Googled it myself, or they tell me to do something which is complete nonsense and unrelated to my problem or even doesn’t apply to Windows 10.

If you are a non-technical person and thus will blindly follow the advice of MS tech support, they are very likely to make your problem worse or create new problems for you or make your entire system insecure.

They will also blatantly lie to you or give you ridiculous advice, especially the ones in India.

  • They will tell you they have escalated an issue to level 2, when they have done nothing of the sort and next time you contact them there will be no record of that conversation.
  • They will tell you that they are opening a case you and that someone will be in touch. You will receive an automated email with your ticket/case information, but nobody will ever contact you or respond to your emails if you reply to the ticket.
  • They will promise to call you back, but will never do so.
  • Live chat support will tell you to reboot your router or your PC, knowing full well it will end the live chat. Which is probably just a tactic to get rid of you because they do not know what else to do.
  • They will give you advice or take actions that leave your system in an insecure or unstable state.

For example, on one occasion when I allowed a tech to remote desktop into my machine, he enabled the default administrator account (with any password), disabled all my Microsoft services, including my firewall and my anti-virus, and told me the problem was solved, and left my machine in this state, telling me everything would be fine.

I can only imagine how many unsuspecting customers this so call Microsoft tech has “helped” by turning off all security and putting their entire system at risk, scary stuff.

Quickbooks

I have been using QuickBooks for my billing & accounting for the last year or so, and the advice given by Quickbooks support is far too often completely wrong to the point of being incompetent and potentially damaging to your business, which is why I am listing them here.

My wife is a bookkeeper and manages numerous Quickbooks accounts for her clients and also has regular issues with the incompetent advice given by Quickbooks support and says her bookkeeping forums are full of similar complaints.

The primary issue is that the live chat support team often do not know how their own software works, which is the result of the bad advice. So you you need to be competent enough yourself with how such systems work to know when you are being given wrong/bad advice, otherwise, you have no choice but to accept what they are telling you.

Here is just one recent example.

I have all my recurring invoices setup to be paid by direct debit via Go Cardless. So the invoices are automatically generated by QuickBooks each month, and the request for payment is sent off to Cardless. When the direct debit is collected, GoCardless sends a notification back to QuickBooks, and the invoice is marked as paid.

I recently noticed that none of my invoices had been paid for an entire month, and upon further investigation, found that the GoCardless connection had been paused for some reason. I did not receive any notifications to tell me there was a problem.

When I contacted QuickBooks support they told me that none of this had anything to do with them. They advised me that invoices are generated by GoCardless and not QuickBooks, that GoCardless controls the connection and the integration and that they must have paused it and that any notifications should come from them.

They even advised me that they will simply mark all invoices as paid even if no payment is received, which left me rather horrified.

I knew none of this was true of course, but I contacted GoCardless anyway for confirmation. As expected GoCardless confirmed that their system does not and cannot generate invoices since it is just a payment gateway and not a billing system, which is exactly what I had told Quickbooks support.

They also confirmed that they do not control the integration and that is also handled by Quickbooks, nor do they have any way to pause a connection, even if they wanted to.

I then contacted QuickBooks support once again, armed with my responses from GoCardless to backup what I had already told them. This time however I spoke to someone on the phone, who was more competent on how their systems worked, and she confirmed that everything I had been told previously was completely wrong and misleading.

The only part that was confirmed to be true, is the fact that they will mark the invoices as paid, even if no payment is received, which is very worrying indeed. I have yet to see this happen, as all my invoices were simply showing as overdue, but this could certainly screw up your accounting as well as cost you a lot of money if you think your invoices have been paid, when they haven’t.

I have recently been using a new CRM system called Perfex CRM, and will likely be moving all my billing into this system and away from Quickbooks.

Are you sharing sentitive data & passwords on freelancer websites?

Are you sharing sentitive data & passwords on freelancer websites?

Are you sharing sentitive data & passwords on freelancer websites? 4

As a freelancer/consultant I use freelancer sites like PeoplePerHour or upwork to get gigs. One of the issues evident in every job I have done is the disregard for security.

Most IT or web related jobs done on PPH are going to involve the exchange of sensitive data, which is required in order to do the job. Clients will gladly share everything with multiple freelancers without a second thought, including their logins for control panels, hosting accounts, domain registrars, website and everything else.

This unconscious sharing of such details has massive security implications which I will address below and offer better and more secure alternatives.

Security Bad Practices

Your login details are for your own use, and everything that is done with your login credentials links back to you. If you share these credentials with multiple people and there is a security breach, you will have no idea who is responsible. If you are an employee and have a boss, then you will most certainly be blamed for the security breach, which could cost your company dearly.

You should not post any sensitive information in the job chat/discussion on the freelancer site (unless they are temporary logins which will be revoked). These conversations will most likely be stored in plain text and not encrypted in any way. Certainly, in the case of PeoplePerHour, I have asked them directly and they have confirmed this is the case.

Are you sharing sentitive data & passwords on freelancer websites? 5
Hackers are everywhere

Thousands of sites get hacked and data is stolen every single day. Most of them are unaware they have even been hacked and the breach can go unnoticed for months or even years in some cases.

If any of the freelancer sites suffer a security breach, the hackers will have access to any data which is not encrypted, which includes all those login details that clients have entered in the chat with their freelancers. Not forgetting that the support staff can also read all your discussions as well, so any dishonest support agent could simply lift your login details and use them for illicit purposes.

Sadly there are also a lot of unscrupulous freelancers out there too, who will intentionally do damage to your systems in order to generate more work for themselves, or may seek revenge in the event of a dispute or disagreement.

I have had several jobs cleaning up after such situations and have found all kinds of back doors, insecure plugins, malware and extraneous logins which presumably had been created by other freelancers.

SECURITY GOOD PRACTICES

Ideally, you should find a single reliable freelancer/company who you are happy with and stick with them, rather than using a different freelancer each time. Not only is this better for security, but using multiple freelancers can also cause other problems as they are oblivious to what work their predecessor has done, and so will often break or undo each other’s work.

Sticking with the same person/company creates a relationship as well as a recurring income, which will, in turn, result in better quality of work, fewer issues and less expense as they will know your systems and the work they have done before and be more inclined to keep you happy.

Plus any decent freelancer/contractor will use a task/project manager and will keep notes on the work he does for ongoing clients which also improves communication and project management.

Do not post sensitive information in the workstream/chat. An exception would be if you are providing a temp login which will be revoked once the job is done.

If you do need to give a freelancer (or anyone) temporary access to your accounts or website, then ideally you should provide them with their own login, not give them yours, which you should revoke (delete) once the job is done.

If it is not possible to create a separate login for your freelancer, then you should always change your passwords after the job has been completed.

HOW TO SECURELY SHARE YOUR DATA

Are you sharing sentitive data & passwords on freelancer websites? 6
everyone should use a password manager

Cloud document sharing

Everyone has access to cloud storage and the ability to share files and documents FOR FREE.

I come across a surprising number of people who are unaware of this, but every single Windows user has access to OneDrive by default. It is part of Windows operating system and allows you to sync up to 5GB of files to the cloud for free. You can then share these files with anyone simply by sending them a link.

Even if you do not use Windows, you can still get a free Microsoft /
OneDrive account.

So you could temporarily put all the info you need to share into a text file or word doc, and share that link with your freelancer. Once the job is done, unshare that file and delete it.

NOTE: This is also not an ideal method and still not very secure to have your login stored in plain text, but it is certainly better and putting them into your workstream where they be on display forever or sending them via email.

If you do not know how to share files with OneDrive, then please read this article “how to share files with others using OneDrive“.

You can also do the same with Google Drive, which you also already have access to if you have a free Gmail account.

Use a password manager

Are you sharing sentitive data & passwords on freelancer websites? 7

Using a password manager is something I recommend to everyone. It will remember all your passwords and other personal info for you, software licenses, bank details etc. It will automatically log you into websites, fill in forms, generate strong passwords for you and more.

The two solutions I generally recommend are LastPass and Dashlane, both of which offer a free edition, although there are many other apps available which vary in features and simplicity.

Password managers are also the most secure way to share logins and other sensitive information with your freelancer and then revoke the share once the job is done. You simply choose to share a login, enter the freelancers email address, and it will send them a share request. If they already use the same password manager, then job done, otherwise, they simply need to register for the free version in order to accept your share request.

As a result the login details are never shared in plain text, as the freelancer will only use the password manager.

WORDPRESS ACCESS

I am going to mention WordPress specifically because this is somehting I deal with a lot, since I build, support and manage WordPress websites.

In almost every WordPress job I do, clients will send me their own admin login, which they have sent to every freelancer before me, who still have access as the password has never been changed.

If you need to give someone permanent access, then create a new admin user just for them, if just need to provide temp access, then I suggest using the “temporary login without passwordplugin , which will allow you to provide a temporary login which will automatically expire after x number of days.

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