The Best and Worst Customer Service I Received In 2016

I’ve written pretty extensively about customer service on this blog when it comes to both horror stories and redemption. In the middle of the end of year hot takes and listicles it seems like as good a time as any to pause and reflect on some of the standouts I’ve gotten on customer service this year, both good and bad. These particular two managed to exceed my expectations. I’m not being endorsed or paid by them; I just wholly recommend their product alone, but the customer service sweetens the pot. Take your trophies, guys:

Google Apps

I’ve been using Google Apps personally since 2011 but I never had any interaction with their customer service team. That changed when I started signing up customers for it this year, largely because it’s a far better solution than webmail. It was August when I was having a weird issue configuring a client’s Outlook to run through Google Apps. I rolled my eyes thinking I’d be in for a 20 minute wait when I was faced with the realization that I’d have to call customer support.

After being on hold for less than twenty seconds a courteous, knowledgeable rep answered the phone. In addition to knowing the problem she was able to physically screen share with me and talk me through it. What I expected to be a nightmare turned into a ten minute fix.

This process has repeated itself half a dozen times over the past year with multiple customers who were migrated to Google Apps. Regardless of the issue Google’s service representatives either knew how to address it or would confidently confirm that it wasn’t something on their end. By phone or the speedy and responsive chat support I frequently received follow up calls confirming that everything was okay or asking if I had any additional questions.

I even had two customers who specifically asked to call Google Apps themselves to see if they could handle it, and both times I received calls back raving about the quality of their customer service. In short, Google Apps not only impressed me but it survived the layman test.


I only recently started using Shopify’s integration with the WordPress websites I build. Most of my queries for Shopify have been online through their live chat program and have been extremely enjoyable. Wait times have been consistently under three minutes, and chat support reps have all been extremely helpful, responsive and informative.

More importantly the representatives were honest. I’ve been using the Shopify embed Button, which is relatively new and still lacks some of the functionality their actual storefronts do. Each rep honestly told me what the Buy Button could and could not do but agreed to incorporate my feedback. I appreciated not just the honesty but consistency, and evidence suggests that they’re actively working to improve the Buy Button based on feedback rather than just paying lip service.


Now comes the worst customer service I received for this year. While it wasn’t even close to the worst customer service I’ve ever received – that award still goes to Dell even a decade later – these were definitely frustrating experiences that stood out. Step forward and claim your dubious honors:


Oh, Bluehost. Time was you were one of my favorite web hosts along with Dreamhost back in 2011, but the mighty have fallen. I’ve worked on behalf of two customers for Bluehost and both times it’s been comparable to pulling teeth. The first customer has had a persisting issue with her E-mails getting bounced, and Bluehost has constantly shifted blame, pointed the finger at other parties and declined to investigate further. While HostGator and GoDaddy have generally been willing to look at your website for issues, Bluehost has taken a “Nuttin’ to do with me” approach that I’ve found fairly galling.

My other experience with Bluehost was a specific E-mail importing technique I needed to know more about. The chat rep I was connected with initially feigned ignorance, then sent me random Wikipedia article links, and then promptly disconnected the chat. I vented about this on Twitter, whereupon one of their community managers connected with me and told me exactly what I needed to know.

When your community managers know more than your actual tech support people it’s time you take a long, hard look at your training.

Access Health CT

My Connecticut state healthcare exchange has, for the most part, high quality customer service in terms of responsiveness and immediately addressing concerns. They’re active and carefully monitor social networks and their phone support connects me to someone in a matter of minutes. So it pains me me to put them on this list, but they screwed up in two major ways.

First, I received conflicting information from two different health representatives. First I was told that I was already renewed for my healthcare plan in 2017 (I wasn’t) and then once I found this out and made sure I was registered I was told that I had the same monthly price (I didn’t; it went up, albeit for a small amount). This came as a surprise since the Access Health CT representatives seem generally well informed. That said, seriously, Access Health CT, shape up.

Second, they have no idea how their own system works. I spoke with multiple reps who insisted I didn’t need a particular tax form and that they don’t send this particular tax form anyway. I spoke with a manager who affirmed this. Then two weeks later I got the tax form that Access Health CT ostensibly doesn’t sent out in the mail. Again, guys, shape up.


All told, I’ve actually been fairly optimistic about the state of customer service going into 2017. That’s a separate article in and of itself, but there seems to be a greater push towards automation and providing better resources to reduce queues for online chats or phones. Plus I’ve watched both GoDaddy and HostGator significantly clean up their acts when it comes to customer service. If this keeps up in 2017 it may be a stretch when I select another “worst of” contender if I do this at the end of the year.