Study Finds U.K. Consumers Unhappy with Call Centers

Survey results released this week by Lithium Technologies suggest that more than 15 million adults in the United Kingdom rank being stuck on hold with a call center operator as their top annoyance of 2015. The findings correlate with fresh data showing that almost one in three U.K. customer care managers believe their biggest weakness is reliance on old customer service techniques, including traditional call centers.

The survey of 2,000 U.K. consumers revealed that the top three factors that drive customer call center annoyance are communication barriers caused by language differences (56 percent), having to go through several options and security checks before talking to a real person (48 percent), and call center representatives sounding like they're following scripts and not offering personalized advice (37 percent).

From an industry perspective, communication providers (34 percent) and utility companies (33 percent) frustrated U.K. consumers most, followed by financial services institutions (23 percent).

The consumer findings come amid evidence from U.K. businesses that customer service expectations are continuing to increase. A survey of 250 U.K. customer care managers showed that four in five (82 percent) believe customers have become more demanding in the past three years. And more than half (56 percent) suggested that digital will evolve to become a primary customer care channel, minimizing response times and better serving consumers.

The customer care survey highlighted that while managers believe digital strategies are critical for meeting rising customer expectations, they are under-resourced to take the necessary steps to adapt.

The survey found that almost a third (31 percent) of customer care managers believe their biggest weakness is reliance on old customer service techniques, while more than a quarter (27 percent) said their main weakness is underinvesting in a consistent 360-degree customer service experience across all channels.

When asked about the future, more than half (56 percent) of customer care managers said that customer service will evolve to focus more on using online channels to minimize response time to queries, while almost a third (29 percent) said customer service will be an entirely online process within five years.

Lack of financial resources is restraining digital transformation within many customer service departments. More than six in 10 (62 percent) customer care managers admitted that having the necessary budget is the main issue their company faces in adapting to digital customer service.

"This data highlights the ineffectiveness of traditional call centers in meeting rising customer expectations, as well as the growing need for UK businesses to explore new ways to engage customers, particularly in the digital sphere," said Katy Keim, chief marketing officer at Lithium Technologies, in a statement. "Today's customer expects a premium level of customer service, and businesses that don't evolve beyond the traditional call center risk being left behind."