Endless rounds of questions, followed by a message that ‘we’re experiencing a high number of calls and you might like to call back later’. Not the kind of service we want, but sadly the type we’ve come to expect.
Calling customer support is like a game of chance. Press one if you’re considering leaving us. Press two if you’re moving home. Press three if you’d like to discuss the different products we can offer you.
I’m often left a little stumped by the fact that all these options could apply to my call, so in haste I pick one at random. Then it’s on to another round of options, and then another, followed by a long wait to insipid musac.
And yet, when my call is finally answered, I still feel compelled to apologetically explain that I might’ve come through to the wrong department.
Hold on a minute – or eight
We’ve researched this subject a few times in recent years and found it’s quite normal for people to take longer than they’d like to get through to an actual person.
In 2008 we called customer helplines at broadband and utility companies and government agencies to find out how long callers had to wait to speak to someone. British Gas, AOL and DVLA kept people hanging on longest, with average waiting times of around three minutes. One call to AOL was held for over 15 minutes.
Then last year we found that the average wait to speak to someone on a broadband provider’s technical support line is 1 minute 33 seconds. That actually sounds pretty good in my experience, but then the average wait to talk to someone at Plusnet did come in at nearly eight minutes.
Put tougher targets in place
Wouldn’t those calls be so much more pleasant if calls were answered personally and directed through to the correct department immediately? It may sound too good to be true, but one foreign exchange broker, World First, has just announced a promise to do just that, answering with a human voice within three rings.
No, I’ve never heard of them either, so it’s not going to make the blindest bit of difference to my waiting times, but it does make me wonder why more companies can’t do the same – or at least put better policies in place to answering quicker.
Our own customer services team at Which? say it takes around a minute to get through our automated questions, but they aim to answer 80% of calls within 60 seconds after that. I wonder how many of the bigger organisations we have to deal with on a regular basis have similar targets?
I applaud World First, and almost wish I was a customer, but I won’t hold my breath for others to follow their lead. For now, clearer options and a commitment to answering calls quicker would go some way to making this caller happier as she waits.