What annoys us most about customer service

Eight in 10 of us are frequently enraged by poor customer service – with not being able to talk to a human and having to repeat the same predicament several times topping a list of the most annoying things about dealing with customer service departments.

A quarter of adults believe the UK's general levels of customer help are under-par – with telecoms, energy companies, banks and building societies coming under fire for providing the very worst service of all.

The study, commissioned by fixed-fee estate agency YOPA, found pushy sales tactics are the biggest bugbear of all – with 56 per cent of people finding aggressivemarketing techniques an insult when they just want to have a decent bit of customer service.

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Researchers found millions of us see red when we telephone through to a service line only to be met with someone who can barely speak English. Getting through to India when you want to talk to someone in the UK and having robotic responses to questions can irritate the most patient of people.

And having to spend lots of time working through pre-select options on the keypad, or finding it impossible to get through to the right department, lead to many slamming down the phone in frustration.

Standardised replies also cause anger amongst many adults, who find it difficult managing their temper when staff are unable to deviate from the rules and regulations of the company.

No reward for loyalty

Understandably then, companies and staff who show little or no flexibility also bother a large number of respondents.

Something which really bothers adults is when new customers are given preferential treatment – usually cheaper rates and bigger discounts – over old. Many of those polled have chosen to change companies after finding they were being over-charged simply for being an existing customer.

Call centres in general feature highly in the top 50 list of bugbears, as do unsolicited emails and mail.

Face-to-face customer service gripes

When it comes to going in-branch for help , customers take great insult when sales assistants chat to one another and ignore the person in front of them. A fifth of people can’t stand it when staff don’t acknowledge waiting customers, especially if the person being served is taking a long time.

Similarly, having to stand in a queue for hours, annoyingly slow customer service, and being made to feel like a nuisance even if you have a valid query also cause irritation.

Hanging on the telephone

And when having to use the telephone for customer service, automated telephone services annoy people, as well as terrible hold music, having to use the key pad and only being able to speak to an advisor between the hours of 9-5pm.

Indeed, researchers found the maximum length of time the average British adult will wait on the line will be just under 10 minutes – after which point they will hang up if not satisfied with the service they are receiving.

Switching providers

Other industries which got a poor report for their customer service were retail (21 per cent), estate agents (18 per cent) and supermarkets (16 percent).

In fact, four in 10 people have already switched companies because the service they had received at their existing company was so poor – with people more likely to change their telecomms provider than any other.

And a fifth of those questioned claim to have gone as far as reporting a company for poor customer service to the likes of Trading Standards, Ofcom or an equivalent – and again, telecomms companies were those most likely to be reported, followed by energy providers.

What we want from customer service

A resounding 68 per cent of us want to be able to talk to someone who can speak good English and understand everything we’re saying, while 54 per cent just want staff to be polite to them.

More than half of those polled want to be able to talk to a human straight away, rather than working their way through automated systems, holding for hours on end and listening to recorded messages.

While 50 per cent want quick service, 46 per cent would be content with promises being kept and 43 per cent want their phone calls to be followed up.

Flexibility, rewards for loyalty and the option to make a call 24 hours a day are also classed as part of a good customer service.

Top 50 customer service bugbears

  1. Pushy sales tactics
  2. Getting through to India when you wanted to talk to someone in the UK
  3. Standardised replies
  4. Being put on hold
  5. Impenetrable foreign accents / they can barely speak English
  6. Not being able to talk to a human
  7. Having to repeat the same story over and over to different members of staff
  8. Call centres
  9. Robotic responses
  10. Over-charging existing customers
  11. Having to spend loads of time working through pre-select options
  12. Giving preferential treatment to new customers over old
  13. Lack of knowledge about products and services
  14. Shop assistants chatting to one another and totally ignoring the (waiting) customers!
  15. The customer service number being a premium-rate phone number
  16. Being made to feel like a nuisance
  17. Unsolicited emails/texts/mail
  18. Having to navigate through loads of press 1 for this or press 2 for that menus
  19. Being told you'll be called back and they never do
  20. Not saying "please" or "thank you"
  21. Having to stand for hours in a queue
  22. Annoying holding music
  23. Hidden charges
  24. Getting passed from one department to another
  25. Automated telephone services
  26. When someone is clearly reading through a crib sheet
  27. Finding it impossible to get through to the right department
  28. Annoyingly slow customer service
  29. Inflexibility
  30. Pushy people trying to upsell
  31. Staff who look down their nose at you / being judgemental
  32. "Computer says no" types
  33. When you try to cancel something and it's nigh on impossible
  34. People who chew gum / eat while serving
  35. Unfulfilled promises
  36. Having to listen to someone read through the legalities before they can actually help you
  37. Not being able to find the customer service phone number anywhere
  38. Not being able to get an appointment when you need one
  39. No sense of urgency / appreciation of customers' time
  40. Only being able to speak to an advisor 9-5pm
  41. Having to use a telephone key pad
  42. Being made to feel like they are doing you a favour, when actually they're just doing their job
  43. Speaking to people that lack empathy
  44. A bad phone line
  45. Being asked to answer a customer service survey at the end of the call
  46. Being seen as an annoyance by customer service
  47. Being made to feel like you don't know what you're talking about
  48. Not acknowledging waiting customers, especially if the customer being served is taking a lot of time
  49. Not being able to cancel anything
  50. Only being able to email / submit a form to get customer service as no telephone number is published

Top 10 worst industries for customer service

  1. Telecomms
  2. Energy
  3. Banks and building societies
  4. Retail
  5. Building trade
  6. Estate agents
  7. Supermarkets
  8. Repair services
  9. Airlines
  10. Mortgage companies
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