Hanging on the Telephone

What do you find the most annoying thing about being kept ‘on hold’ when you are trying to make a customer service phone call? This was the question asked by the consumer group ‘Which?’ in a recent survey of their members.

Out of 2,260 respondents, being told that their call is “valued” was cited as the most annoying thing by around half (47%) of the respondents. This was followed by being directed to the company’s website (28%) and apologies for all operators being busy (11%).

The survey found that most callers would rather be told how long they would have to wait, where they were in the queue, and to be given the choice of being called back.

Surprisingly, nearly half of those asked said that classical music was a soothing feature for them while waiting. But other noises were seen as much more annoying. An engaged tone annoyed the most people (29%), followed by rock music (22%) and background 'wallpaper' music with no specific tune (21%).

A massive 93% of respondents said they were prepared to wait on the line for no more than five minutes. But there are things that can be done to make the waiting time less frustrating. When asked about the most useful features, 33% cited being told how long you have to wait, followed by where you are in the queue (32%), and the offer of being called back if you leave your number (30%).

Richard Headland, editor of Which? magazine, said: "Waiting on hold is a waste of time, but some organisations make the experience needlessly annoying through objectionable messages and music. If these drive you round the bend, vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere. The best companies know the value of answering your call quickly."

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, said: "People are time-poor and less likely to be happy waiting for service as a result. It means consumers are less understanding of organisations that do not make it easy to get in touch."

"If businesses want to enjoy ongoing customer loyalty - and attract new business - their focus should be on convenience and efficiency. In short, this means getting it right quickly, and getting it right first time. Anything less, and customers will think twice about spending money or recommending them to others."


Which? Magazine, 15th October 2016