Your call is being held in a queue...

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We've all heard and cursed those weasel words, "Your call is being held in a queue and will be answered shortly". So it comes as a surprise to hear that at least one major company thinks it answers its phones too quickly.

The insurance company Standard Life has found that answering too rapidly left some customers startled.

Speaking at a conference in London, Graeme Williamson, Standard Life's customer service assistant general manager, said: "Previously, we aimed to answer all calls within five seconds. But customers started to tell us this was too quick as it startled them and they were unprepared. So now we allow the call to ring for eight seconds."

But he did acknowledge that if it was left too long - perhaps 30 or 40 seconds - customers tended to give up.

Other firms took a more expected line. A spokeswoman for British Telecom, said its policy was to answer phones "as soon as possible if not before". The AA held the same view. Martin Farrer