Call centres are the nation's biggest gripe, according to new research

'Call centres and telephone systems are the biggest customer service gripes by far'

David Connett
Sunday 13 September 2015 01:14
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The call may be important to them, but having to hold annoys us
The call may be important to them, but having to hold annoys us

It is in danger of replacing “the cheque is in the post” as one of the great lies of our time. “Your call is important to us. All of our operators are busy, please stay on the line. We will answer you shortly.”

Add to that a long list of options, the first of which you’ve forgotten by the end, and the listener may soon be heading for an aneurysm.

Call centres, especially those not based in the UK, are the nation’s biggest bugbear, according to new research carried out by the Which? consumer group.

In a survey of 100 major UK brands, to be released this week, more than 3,500 consumers were asked what it was that made them see red about the companies and shops they use.

The results found that nearly half – 46 per cent – of people said they were irritated by call centres not being based in the UK, while just over a third (36 per cent said they disliked automated telephone systems). The lucky ones who actually got through were no less discontented. A third (32 per cent) were annoyed about being passed around lots of different people.

Customers who experienced good levels of service gave a thumbs-up to friendly or helpful staff (53 per cent), staff with good product or service knowledge (29 per cent) and speed of service (29 per cent.)

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “Call centres and telephone systems are the biggest customer service gripes by far. Firms need to up their game – those that don’t give customers the care and attention they deserve risk losing out to their competitors.”

According to research published earlier this year, inadequate service is costing companies £7.7bn a year in lost business. Banks, broadband, energy and mobile phone service providers are all losing out by failing to reach acceptable standards – with banks missing out on £2.3bn as savers switch accounts due to negative experiences, according to the online retail bank First Direct.

The 2014 Which? survey of companies providing call-centre customer service placed the energy firm Npower in last place out of 100 firms, narrowly behind Scottish Power and the airline Ryanair.

The Call Centre Association, which represents the call centre industry, was unavailable for comment. Callers to their Glasgow office are not offered a long list of options.

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