It seems the stiff-upper-lipped Brits are losing some of their habitual sang-froid, at least as far as call centres are concerned. A new report from Save Direct Telecom says that the country where people will form and orderly queue at the drop of a hat and still give up seats on trains and buses to the elderly and infirm is foaming at the mouth over poor call centre service. Martyn Warwick reports.
The UK's confidence in call centres is at an all time low. Research carried out by SIM-only mobile network 'giffgaff' has found that the British have a six minute threshold while waiting in a call centre queue before losing their tempers and banging down the handset in foul-mouthed frustration. And when we do eventually get through the Kafka-esque mazes of overly-complex voice response systems and actually get to speak, at long last, to a human being, we have even less patience with under-trained unskilled agents who either don't know or can't understand what we are talking about and so either cut us off or push us from pillar to post and agent to agent as they pass the buck and abdicate responsibility.
Users are also increasingly concerned about the security of data held by and in call centres and recent revelations in the media about Indian call centres allegedly selling email addresses have further reduced confidence, particularly where overseas call centres are concerned. A recent YouGov survey shows that 55 per cent of Britons do not trust call centres in the UK to keep personal data safe. That's bad enough but it rises to a massive 83 per cent who do not trust overseas call centres to guard their personal information from misuse.
Fuming consumers often wonder why their query and complaint call are routed to somewhere on the other side of the planet when the problem is a local one in the UK. The answer of course is money. By setting up in low wage countries telcos can save 65 pence on an average call. And given the huge numbers of calls made, that soon adds up to a tidy sum, thank you very much. It should always be remembered that telco's much vaunted claims about customer care are predicated first and foremost on them making a fat profit by setting up shop in India, South Africa, Bangla Desh, the Philippines and elsewhere and ensuring that the great bulk of problems are dealt with by operatives in such places. Only big problems, influential customers and journalists are referred back to the UK and get "special" treatment.
Recent statistics show that 70 per cent of consumer complaints are still made over the phone, even though the amount of email, web and social media complaints are on the increase. YouGov has reported that just 4.1 per cent of people report having a good experience when dealing with a call centre while 80 per cent admit to having lost patience with waiting times and poor service when (and if) they do eventually get through.
Meanwhile, 69 per cent of call centre users say their opinion of a company or service has been permanently damaged after poor customer service.
What's more, 50 per cent go on to advise family and friends against a company or service that they’ve had a bad experience with whilst a quarter have terminated a contract with a company or service that has kept them waiting too long.
Direct Save Telecom does declare an interest in this matter and the company's CEO, Tavros Tsolakis, says he is proud of his company's highly-skilled, properly trained and motivated UK-based customer service team and believes it is high time that all telcos started putting the needs of their subscribers above the demands of the bottom line.
He says, “Yes, it is a lot cheaper to outsource your call centre needs overseas, but cheaper certainly does not mean better. We are living in a fast-paced world, where people are constantly on the move. They want quick, effective answers to their questions and certainly do not want to be stuck in a telephone queue, only to be greeted by an operator with a limited English vocabulary who cannot answer your query if you go off-script. It doesn't take a genius to work out why Brits are catching telecom rage.”
Mr. Tsolakis adds: “People have lost trust in overseas call centres, and this makes it even more important that there is a shift back to UK call centres... this is the only way we will get the public’s faith back. We guarantee that we will never divulge any personal data about any customer... we made a conscious decision to pay more money to have a UK-based call centre, and others should follow suit. Not only this, but it is also important to ensure that operators are trained with the appropriate skills to be able to answer, in a timely and efficient manner, questions people are phoning up about."
According to Direct save, the company has fielded just 59 complaints from a total of 21,267 customer calls received in the past six months and the average waiting time in a call queue was just 20 seconds.
So, the British are getting more and more angry about the way their providers of comms services deal with their calls, queries and complaints and give up in disgust after being held on line for six minutes. And let us remember these are calls they are paying through the nose for. Very, very few are free and the longer a punter can be held in the ether the more money the carrier makes.
However, despite our new found propensity to summon up the red mist, we are still more a patient than out nearest continental neighbour. Research by Aucahn Telecom shows that the average Frenchman or woman loses patience with their call centres (many of which are also sited overseas) within five minutes.
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