The dreaded hold can drive customers away
British businesses’ call handling standards have come into question as the result of a major new study into telephone practice.
Typically, waiting on hold is seen as a major bugbear but 52 per cent of firms still leave customers listening to nothing but generic music. A further 21 per cent subject callers to beeps, while 17 per cent leave them in silence and five per cent force them to listen to ringing. Only two per cent employ brand-consistent voice and music messaging, which is viewed as the best practice approach to handling calls.
The research conducted by audio branding specialist PHMG, which audited 11,129 companies, discovered most risk losing custom by subjecting customers to generic music and audio while on hold.
These figures also suggest call handling standards are not improving when compared to results from a similar study conducted in 2013. The number of companies playing repetitive music has doubled within that period.
Mark Williamson, Sales and Marketing Director at PHMG, said: “Call handling remains a critically undervalued element of customer service and marketing. A previous study of 1,000 UK consumers found 73 per cent will not do business with a company again if their first call isn’t handled to satisfaction.
“Therefore, it is important companies do their utmost to improve the experience. The same study also showed that 51 per cent of customers feel more valued if they hear bespoke voice and music messages on hold, so there are clear steps that can be taken.
“Businesses typically invest large proportions of their marketing budgets in ensuring they look good but it is equally important to create an audio brand that meets the same high standards. The trends over the past three years suggest many companies are simply aiming to use generic music to keep callers entertained but this can actually have the opposite effect.”
The research also found 17 per cent of businesses do not have a voicemail service for when they are unable to answer calls. A further 82 per cent have a standard voicemail message, while less than one per cent use a personalised message.
19 per cent of companies use an interactive voice response (IVR) system to automatically filter calls.