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CONSUMER REPORTS -- Almost everyone has had to deal with customer service—to question a bill, request repairs, or return merchandise. And as the Consumer Reports National Research Center discovered, many have experiences they don’t like!

Surveys conducted over several years by Consumer Reports examined 22 industries and found among the worst for customer service are computer tech support centers, appliance repairers, and telephone and Internet providers. The most irritating problems are the inability to get a live person on the phone, a rude or condescending customer-service representative, and getting disconnected.

Generally speaking, women were more annoyed than men, as were people over 45.

Consumer Reports analysis found that within every industry, some companies provide much better customer service than others.

Consider computer tech support. Survey respondents rated both HP and Toshiba as having the worst customer care, and Apple as offering the best. And air travelers gave the lowest marks to Spirit Air for their cabin service compared with top-rated Virgin America.

Consumer Reports says the best advice for resolving an issue is still to pick up the phone and call the company. Real-time contact is often more efficient than e-mail. And if you get an automated menu, try to bypass it by pressing zero or the pound symbol.

Consumer Reports: Customer service nightmares

We all have to deal with customer service, and Consumer Reports found many of us have experiences we're not happy with. Surveys have determined which industries are the worst for dealing with customers.