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Service with a Smile—or a Shrug

Our customer-service cover package (Mar. 3) had readers venting their frustrations and sharing tales about getting satisfaction or getting even. A few argued about where certain brands landed on our second annual company-service ranking ("Customer Service Champs"). But No. 1-ranked USAA, the financial services company for military families, drew a chorus of cheers. The company that provoked the most comments was Sprint (S), among the lowest-ranked on our list. Spencer Ante's story on its service struggles ("Sprint's Wake-Up Call") triggered hundreds of mostly negative comments about the wireless carrier, some from employees.

I long ago quit wasting time with bad customer service. Instead I document my specific complaint to the CEO in a terse, polite, factual letter that states exactly what I want in compensation. In most cases I receive what I am asking for: travel vouchers, new cell phone(s), even, in several cases, my own personal tech support person, who called me back to discuss my problems. I have also used the local small-claims court to my advantage. Companies must respond to a small claims action or risk an expensive default judgment. So I'm usually contacted by a fairly high-ranking customer rep who is skilled at listening and can get things done.

Rick Cunnington

TUCSON

When I saw that L.L. Bean ranked No. 2 on your list of service champs, I thought it was a sad joke. I had just gotten off the phone with the company, trying to order from a week-old catalog. The first two items I wanted were "not in stock." The same thing had happened about a year ago. Then it hit me: Your ratings are relative. Bean simply ranks higher than most other companies—an indication of the dismal state of consumer service in America.

Doug Frechtling

BETHESDA, MD.

The exceptional aspect of Trader Joe's is that you can trust the unknown and house brands to be good. The same can't be said about your usual local supermarket.

Screen name: Preston Bannister

I'm not surprised USAA was ranked No. 1 in customer service. Call me selfish, but everyone needs to quit praising the company. I want USAA to stay small—I'm afraid that growth will make its customer service suffer.

Screen name: Mark Wisher

I've been a loyal Sprint customer for seven years. My complaint: They have the worst selection of phones in the industry. I want a sleek phone that doesn't look like an old model.

Screen name: Travis

"Sprint's Wake-Up Call" is the most accurate coverage I've seen about Sprint Nextel. After the "merger" it seemed as if Sprint wanted to take the company in a completely different direction, implementing hundreds of policies and procedures that prevented employees like me from being able to satisfy our customers.

Screen name: Current Sprint Employee

As a Sprint employee, I have mixed feelings about your article. I was a store manager for many years and won many company customer-service awards. I have since stepped down from that job, as I was feeling pressured to meet sales goals only. The company didn't care any more how satisfied customers were. They wanted me to force more lines of service on them. I don't think customer service is extinct here, just endangered.

Screen name: Current Employee

What Else Is Wrong with the Insurance System

It's not just the hospitals that get shortchanged by insurers ("Wrangling Over 'Reasonable' Fees, News, Mar. 3). Out-of-network doctors are routinely denied their full payment by insurers after they treat patients in emergency rooms. It's a crime for insurers to collect premiums when they don't have the physicians within their own network to provide adequate emergency care and refuse to pay the out-of-network physicians who come to bail them out.

Screen name: William Lewis

Regarding the wrangle over reasonable medical and hospital fees: The medical community should be forced to publish a survey of average service charges. At the same time, the insurance companies should be forced to disclose their respective contractual reimbursement rate averages.

Screen name: Quentin Ledford

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Detroit

Financial firms are facing a leadership crisis ("Who's Looking Out for Wall Street?" Opinion, Mar. 3). The corporate leadership culture now resembles the auto industry's right before Detroit's decline, with corporate leaders looking to advance their plans for financial gain and padding their pockets.

David Horn

OAKLAND, CALIF.

Getting Power for Wind and Solar

We need to keep fighting for the environment ("Green—Up to a Point," News, Mar. 3). The latest bill calling for a renewal of the production tax credit for wind energy recently failed to prevail over a filibuster. Citizens must now lobby the Senate to continue this tax credit for wind energy.

Screen name: Bob Shultis

AARP Provides a Service but Is No Advocate

AARP could help its membership by using the tremendous leverage it has with the various vendors it throws its name behind. By insisting on better terms, it could effectively provide better products and services for AARP members ("Sure It's From AARP, but Is It a Good Deal?" Personal Business, Feb. 25). Yet the organization fails to do this, even though it leads its members to believe they are getting added value from the products and services endorsed by the organization.

Screen name: Jim

Credit Scores: The Formula Won't Give You the Whole Picture

There's a simple reason credit scores are nearly meaningless ("Credit Scores: Not-So-Magic Numbers," Special Report, Feb. 18). The formula for generating them doesn't include a borrower's income and assets. The score reflects only credit and repayment histories. Someone relying on it has no inkling of a borrower's earning power and assets. It's a little like trying to evaluate a stock without viewing income statements and balance sheets.

Jerry Ratledge

TIERRA VERDE, FLA.


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