Tips from the Top 50 UK Contact Centres

Why choose the phone when there’s so many other ways to communicate?

There might be many more methods of getting in touch with people, companies, customers or friends but does that mean that they’re actually better than the good old phone?

Aside from being face-to-face, the only way to really gauge how someone is feeling, their mood, how helpful they are and how enthusiastic they are is to speak to them. With your voice and not a keyboard.

So yes, times have certainly changed and we’re a lot more tech savvy now (apart from my mum who still doesn’t understand how to use a mouse let alone Google something..) and despite there being tons of apps that can be used to make a call like Hangouts, Facetime, Skype or Whatsapp, we still believe that the good old fashioned phone is the best way to keep in touch for a business.

Why is it so much better?

  • Immediacy
  • Technophobes friendly
  • Time Saving
  • Human
  •  Security
  •  Reliable

Easy to use – with the push of a button your call will be re-directed through an often very complex and long IVR system or tree, where there are many menus and options for the customer so that their call can be directed to the most appropriate department or contact. Even my mum knows how to navigate a telephone menu, it’s minimal and straightforward in comparison to using an online chat system where you often have to enter your details before you’re able to be connected to an agent.

Timely – We know waiting on hold is boring, it’s why iNarrator was born, to keep you entertained when you’re on the phone. The average time waiting on hold to the top 50 customer service companies last month, was a mere 1 and a half minutes. This is super speedy when compared with the average wait for a response from live chat (5 minutes), social media (30 minutes) and email which averaged anywhere between a snails paced 1 hour to a 1 day wait.

Knowledge – If you’ve ever used an online chat box then you will know how stressful it can be to get your queries across to an advisor using a keyboard, rather than speaking to someone over the phone. It takes time to type out your initial query, followed by the advisor asking you several more questions to help them decide on how best to advise you, something which could be done in a fraction of the time if it was to be done over the phone. It’s reassuring speaking with an advisor over the phone as their knowledge is readily available for you to request. I’m much more likely to respond with “Yes, actually there is…” when asked “Is there anything else I can do to help you?” over the phone, whereas I would much quicker to disconnect from an online advisor. Which brings me to our next benefit of speaking over the phone…

Personalised – Stock answers or scripts can only be used to a certain level over the phone because someone is reacting to your conversation in real time, they can’t sit back and mull over what to respond because that would create an unprofessional awkward silence. We’re not saying it’s impossible to be personable or friendly via live chat but you can’t beat having an actual conversation! Live chat has changed the sound of the office, where once there were rooms of melodic tones and happy chatter now there’s the pitter patter of typing.

When it comes to personalising a call we’re quite thankful that the switchboard is a thing of the past, after finding out that to advertise the appropriate manner in which to answer the phone in 1910, saying ‘Hello’ was quite frowned upon. As the phone was once quite an exclusive mode of conversation, it was used mainly by the middle classes and therefore service had to be perfect. Callers and office workers were sent the AT&T Telephone Pledge, where they promised to be as “Courteous and Considerate over the Telephone as if face to face” Something we think should still be a Golden Rule today!

Reliable – The phone is direct. Using the phone to resolve an issue is a two way conversation without playing email ping pong or having to go back and forth on a live chat, it’s one interaction where your query is likely to be resolved. The phone is still the dominant form of customer service, making up 68% of customer service interactions. Which shows how reliable it is still considered to be when there are now many other methods of contacting customer service departments.  


Who likes using the phone?

The idea that people might actually prefer to speak to a company over the phone might seem a little farfetched to some but there’s plenty of reasons why the phone comes up trumps, and we’ve already mentioned a few.

It might divide opinion but using social media as a dominant means of communication isn’t just changing the way customers and clients interact with your business but it’s changing how your employees do too. Hark back to the days before the internet went mainstream, circa 1999, and think of office life and how equipment has changed and developed. Without the chitter chatter of the phone your office becomes silent, you might be using the internet to speak to customers but is a reliance on online chat as a tool for customer service encouraging a stony faced generation of arthritic fingered advisors who are losing the ability to converse?

A recent study of how the top 50 UK customer service companies handled customer queries, across a range of methods, positions the telephone as the best method for communicating with customers. Pitting the phone against live chat, social media and emails, the phone came out top in all five categories. Each communication method was tested in the following and the phone scored best;

Timely – 87.2%

Easy to Use – 93.9%

Reliable – 94.9%

Knowledgeable - 89.5%

Personalised – 75.0%

The survey found that customers were most satisfied when the advisor asked their name and introduced themselves, coming across as friendly in their conversation was another aspect that callers reported added to a positive experience, something that isn’t as easily achieved over a typed conversation.

There were of course some elements that customers didn’t like about contacting customer service over the phone, which will be worth noting so that you can strive to make sure your callers don’t face them!



  • Making multiple attempts to call – Yes this one might be difficult to avoid if you’re a busy company but there are steps you can take to at least improve the caller’s experience. Why not offer a call back service or have informative and entertaining on hold marketing and messages, so that callers are more inclined to stay on the line. Just take a look at the average times people stayed on the line waiting when they didn’t have anything to listen to, compared to when they did and you’ll be sold!
  • Speaking too quickly or unclearly – It’s vital that your staff are trained in call handling, a customer is going to have a much better experience and become less irate if they’re not straining to understand what is being said to them. Provide your staff with some guidelines and have regular top up training to ensure the quality of the service is at the standard you expect.

There are of course benefits for using email or live chat alongside having call handlers available, but you need to make sure you’re offering the right type of contact and support for your business. You need to assess the type of contact each method is used for. For example the phone will usually be used when a customer has a complaint or a query that can be quickly resolved. Email is better for marketing or sending information that doesn’t require an immediate response or to confirm details, plus it can be used at all hours. Social media is more the fun side of communicating, where your customers may post how happy they are with their product or have a more general enquiry, it’s more light-hearted and informal than a telephone call would be. What suits you best?

If you’re a small business then it may be unwise to offer lots of ways to contact you, unless you’ve got the manpower and time to respond to and monitor each platform or method. It might seem like a great idea to be present everywhere but if you are only appearing as easy to reach, when in actual fact you don’t have enough staff to answer your calls or keep an eye on the inbox and social media channels, then it would be better to focus on one primary point of contact. Don’t spread yourself too thinly!

Is the phone best?

In a recent survey the phone again proves itself as the most popular choice of contact, handling half of all inbound calls, compared to the channels you would think are growing like social media, only accounting for 2.7% of interactions. Despite expanding the ways in which we can now reach customers and they can reach us, since the 1950s, the phone has remained as the most dominant method of customer communication.

The phone was the fastest growing method of contact during 2013 and was also predicted as the busiest method of contact throughout 2014 and 2015.

"The results also reiterate the fact that voice is and should continue to be a dominant channel in the contact centre.”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

With the telephone being the most personal and human way to interact, aside from face-to-face, it’s important to brand your company similarly. Whilst callers are waiting, does your IVR Menu or on hold marketing reflect the way your agents will speak with the caller? Adding in a personal touch before your customer is even connected is easy with On Hold Marketing and can be tailored, with regional voices or area specific offers.

Although times have changed, you can see that there is still a huge market for telephone based companies and customer service departments. It may seem like a dated option when compared with more high-tech means of communication such as video chat or social media yet it’s evidently the most reliable and easy to use method, having stood the test of time.


Omnichannel infographic