Why I Don’t Call Out Bad Companies by Name on This Blog

February 18, 2013

I have a terrible customer service story to share. It is a story of bait and switch advertising so blatant that everyone I tell it to is shocked by the brazenness of it. People literally get mad just hearing the story.

But something happened as I began writing the story this weekend: I found myself having to explain why I was not mentioning the company by name.

As I wrote, I realized that I have never really discussed why I generally don’t call out companies by name on this blog (there are rare exceptions), and I realized that the answer was going to take more than a quick paragraph — that it deserved a blog post of its own.

So, today I would like to explain the reasoning behind that philosophy, and if you would like to hear my enraging customer service story, please come back on Thursday.

Why I Don’t Call Out Bad Companies By Name on This Blog

Obviously, here at Customers That Stick we focus on discussing customer service and the customer experience. Customer service stories are an important part of that discussion, whether they appear in the comment section or in our customer service stories series (as highlighted on our menu below).

Why I Don't Call Out Companies by Name on this Blog | CTS Sidebar Menu

We can learn a tremendous amount through stories, and as humans, stories are often more powerful than simple facts or lists of 3 ways to rock your customer’s world.

Here’s the catch though: some stories are positive and some stories are not.

Positive stories are easy. I have no problem mentioning a customer service company that provided me excellent customer service, as I did here and here. However…

We react differently to negative information than we do to positive information.

If I share a positive customer story, then people will take away a message not only about the company itself but also about what can be learned from the company’s performance.

With negative customer service stories, the message tends to get lost. It tends to be all about the company.

If that is the case, then what value does the conversation bring to this community?

If you want to read stories about bad customer service then there are no shortage of venues for that. I think we can all agree that finding stories of bad customer service on the Internet is not too difficult. Knowing which ones are credible, of course, is an entirely different matter.

Here’s the thing: I do not think people who call a company out by name are wrong to do so. When I read negative customer service stories on the blogs of friends and colleagues, I often comment and participate in the discussion. If the stories are factual and constructive in their approach, then they can provide valuable feedback to a company and valuable lessons to others.

But here at Customers That Stick, it would just be too easy to do.

Angry Guy Yelling

We have been ramping up our guest post program this year, and I imagine if we openly solicited ideas along the lines of send us your customer service horror stories that we would have a full year’s worth of guest posts lined up in a few weeks.

But is that what I want this blog to be about? Is that what I want the Customers That Stick brand to be about?


This purpose of this blog is to move forward a conversation about improving customer service and the customer experience. Sure, sometimes we’ll take quick detours and talk about subjects that are not strictly on topic. But these diversions are infrequent and, hopefully, do no more than add depth and humanness to the brand — without redefining it.

Does this mean that we will never write anything critical about any company? Absolutely not. But those criticisms are constructive process criticisms — not complaints about a bad experience.

For instance, my experience contacting Apple customer service via phone left a lot to be desired, but overall I’m an Apple fan and have a lot positive things to say about their customer experience processes. Similarly, I have a huge amount of respect for Amazon but am tinkering around with an idea for a post about how it could improve its online ratings system.

However, these are not heat of the moment stories about a bad experience; these are dispassionate analyses of potential process improvements.

I want to emphasize again that this decision is not a value judgement; it is a content and community choice. This is a decision about what I want people to experience when they come here and what I want them to take away.

Negative customer service stories are important. Learning what not to do can be as important as learning what to do. But if the lesson is what matters, then the name of the company really does not.

Let’s recognize bad service moments for what they can teach us…

…and let the Internet take care of the rest.

In that spirit, please join me on Thursday when we discuss a car company’s deceptive offer in Fine Print is Inevitable; Bait and Switch is Not.

24 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Call Out Bad Companies by Name on This Blog”

  1. Great post. I remember seeing a video 20 years ago when I was a dispatcher for a plumbing company called, “Give Them a Pickle”. The guy in the video use to own Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor and he went on about how customers tell a few people about good experiences, but tell thousands about a bad experience. Is calling out a company a bad thing? Yes and No. I think it depends on the context and the person doing the story-telling. If it is simply a “rant”, I will tune it out because some people just complain to complain, while someone else has a legitimate problem.

    What do you hope to gain from calling-out a company by name on your blog? I would hope to bring attention to a much bigger problem or you end up sounding like an idiot if it provides no value. I have worked in customer service in some sort of form all my life and you get use to the bad and the good. Will a company respond to a public “rant”? Maybe if the complaint is warrant for a solution, but I still feel that your approach to the complainer should be carefully crafted.

    I think about the individual on the phone that has to answer the call to hear me upset and the crap they have to endure. Will they help me or will I go on deaf ears? Sometimes they just want to get you off the phone rather than help you solve your problem. You have to pick your battles wisely and deal with things on a case by case basis. That’s just my 2 cent.s Nice blog…

    1. Sonia, thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts! Working in customer service, as you have, we both know what it’s like to be on the other end of the complaint. Some are constructive, some are angry but true, and some are just people complaining because that’s who they are. I always appreciate when a customer has a legitimate point of dissatisfaction and shares that with me. Would I prefer they share it privately first and give us an opportunity to correct the situation — of course. But if they do it on social in a constructive way, I understand that it is the world we live in today.

      I agree about picking battles wisely and also about having some substance behind a complaint.

      Appreciate the great thoughts!

  2. Adam, I think it’s great that you don’t call out companies. As you mentioned, sometimes the point is just the lesson and if you don’t feel its important to name the company, then it probably isn’t.

    I write a brands of the week column where I give examples of my interactions/experiences with customer service but I DO use the company (for both bad and good experiences). In my case, the focus is on the customer service of that brand so I feel it’s important to name the company.

    You have figured out how to offer great advice/tips/examples of customer service without ever having to call out the person or company which is pretty amazing and goes with what you feel ethically. Kudos to that and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic!

    1. I appreciate the feedback Casie. It’s really not so much an ethical decision (though I do believe in giving companies a chance to solve issues privately first, in most cases), as I do not have a problem with people calling out companies in a constructive and reasonable fashion. The decision is really more about what I want this blog and community to be.

      I will definitely have to check out your brands of the week column. Thanks again for sharing, and feel free to stop by anytime!

  3. Adam, I love your policy about not calling out companies by name when writing about poor customer service experiences.

    I have a personal policy of treating everyone – business owners, employees, whomever – the way I want to be treated. It’s definitely not always easy! But what I publish online or in print is “forever.” Since I wouldn’t want my shortcomings carved in stone “forever” with my name attached, unless my growth through those failures was included in the story, I let that guide me when it comes to speaking ill of others — even if I believe they “deserve” it.

    Kudos to you for making your corner of the internet a place where we have opportunities to learn from others without dragging people through the mud! I love the encouraging spirit of your website and blog, and hope it becomes a model for many.

    1. Michelle, I am humbled by your example. Your attitude towards others is consistently inspiring.

      Being in retail, I’ve had my business lit up online for no reason — or for a small reason, that could have been easily fixed with a phone call to us. The worst one was when a lady told us (i.e. the world) how awful we were on social, and it turned out she was not even our customer. She had a conversation with her daughter, got mad, and went straight to calling us out online. Of course, when we spoke to the daughter, we fixed the issue in 10 minutes, and we would have done the same thing regardless of the mom attacking us online. In the end, the mom used social media to try to bully us.

      The moral of the story… Living behind the spear, in the trenches, etc., I have a high level of empathy for companies and what they have to deal with. So, aside from my content decisions here on the blog, I like to treat companies I interact with the same way I would want to be treated.

      1. I’ve been there too, Adam!

        I’ll have a guest post for your consideration soon, after my poor Valentine’s Day experience at a pricey restaurant that came highly recommended. No names, of course. 😉

  4. Adam – I realized something while reading your post: I don’t actually run into a lot of bad customer service anymore. Sometimes I run into a lazy employee in a store, but more often than not, they go out of their way to lead me to an item I’m looking for. In the online world, I get very fast and useful responses if I submit a problem ticket on a piece of software that isn’t working. Something must be going right these days.

    I appreciate the not naming of offending companies on your blog. I like how Donna Gurnic did this in her post on Office Depot and their competition.

    1. I am going to say something that might be controversial — I think it’s you Patricia. Depending on the study, the state of customer service is generally flat or down from years past. Of course that is a very broad statement, and a lot has to do with industry and, quite simply, who you tend to do business with. On an individual level, however, I truly believe that overall you find the service you expect.

      Have you ever seen the old exercise where you take 10 seconds and look for everything red in the room, close your eyes, and then you are told “tell me everything in the room that’s green.” You can’t do it because you had focused on red. If you are expecting good service, you will tend to find it more; if you are expecting bad, guess what…

      Thanks so much for the comment… and for inspiring a bit of a long-winded answer! 🙂

    2. Thank you Patricia 🙂

      It’s nice to hear that you have experienced a lot of good service lately! I think you and Adam make some good points here. Customer service is changing in a positive way, and companies are seriously competing on the field of customer experience.

      On the other hand, the customer experience is largely affected by the perceptions of both the customer and the service provider, so someone else’s interpretation of an experience may not match your own.

    1. For a blogger, it really is a personal choice. Obviously, with the customer service focus here, I’m concerned it could open the door for a tone that I do not think moves the conversation forward. Ironically, on the very day, I was writing this post, I received a submission via my contact form that was one sentence and accused a major retailer of discrimination because security followed her around the store. Obviously, the person who sent it was a bit out there, but it was a timely reinforcement of my decision and the road I want CTS to stay on.

      Have a great day Kaarina!

  5. Did you break out the Kung Fu grip on them?

    It’s pretty obvious what right and wrong are; if it’s not passing the smell taste then shame on them. Totally different than building brand loyalty so one bad experience doesn’t chase you off.

    1. The kung fu grip comes out on Thursday — even though it will be invisible. This one was pretty blatant, and in the end, I have to thank the company because this was one I thought deserved to be public, and it really forced me to evaluate and solidify my thoughts on calling out companies here.

  6. First of all, a little customer service of my own… Thanks so much for the great comments and apologies to all! I must be having WordPress issues; no comments showed up yesterday, then when I logged in this morning, they all showed up at once.

    Now for the individual responses…

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  9. Adam,

    Great post. It’s true, blogs like this is more about the education and how we can improve the customer experience and customer support. Unfortunately we’re wired in a way where if we hear a negative story about a company we automatically view that company negatively regardless of the lessons behind it. We have to learn to look past that and figure out how we can get better at customer service/experience.

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