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UK Consumers Unhappy with Call Centres

Study finds brands are unable to keep up with increasing UK customer demands

Survey highlights:

  • Consumer study suggests that more than 15 million UK adults rank being stuck on hold to a telephone operator their top annoyance of 2015.
  • Four in five UK customer care managers believe customers have become more demanding over the past three years.
  • Almost a third of customer care managers believe their biggest weakness is reliance on old customer service techniques.
  • Communication providers (34.20%) and utility companies (33.20%) frustrate consumers most, followed by financial service institutions (23%).
  • More than six in ten customer care managers believe that having the necessary budget is the main issue they face in adapting to digital.

LONDON – October 5, 2015 – As National Customer Service Week commences today in the UK, new survey results suggest that more than 15 million UK adults rank being stuck on hold with a telephone operator their top annoyance of 2015. (1) The findings correlate with fresh data showing that almost one in three UK customer care managers believe their biggest weakness is reliance on old customer service techniques, including traditional call centres.

Commissioned independently by Lithium Technologies, a survey of 2,000 UK consumers revealed that the top three factors that drive customer call centre annoyance are communication barriers caused by language differences (56%), having to go through several options and security checks before talking to a real person (48%), and the call centre representative sounding like they're following a script and not offering personalised advice (37%).

From an industry perspective, communication providers (34.20%) and utility companies (33.20%) frustrated consumers most, followed by financial services institutions (23%).

The consumer findings come amidst evidence from UK businesses that customer service expectations are continuing to increase. A survey of 250 UK customer care managers, conducted on behalf of Lithium Technologies, showed that four in five (82.40%) believe customers have become more demanding over the past three years. And more than half of them (56%) suggested that digital will evolve to become a primary customer care channel, minimising 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 (31.20%) of customer care managers believe their biggest weakness is reliance on old customer service techniques, while more than a quarter (27.20%) 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 (56.00%) of customer care managers said that customer service will evolve to focus more on using online channels to minimise response time to queries, while almost a third (29.20%) 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%) 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 centres 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 of Lithium Technologies. “Today’s customer expects a premium level of customer service, and businesses that don’t evolve beyond the traditional call centre risk being left behind.”

Download an infographic on the survey results here: http://www.lithium.com/download?p=http://www.lithium.com/pdfs/infographic/lithium_uk_b2b_customer_service.pdf

Check out how brands like Sony Europe, Microsoft, Canon and Consorsbank are using digital channels to meet and exceed their customers’ expectations: http://pages.lithium.com/customer-success-book.html

Survey methodology

Consumer survey– The research was conducted online by Censuswide between 11 September and 14 September, among 2,000 respondents aged 16 or older. The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

B2B survey – The research was conducted online by Censuswide between 07 September and 10 September, among 250 respondents.The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK customer care managers. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles.


(1) The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that there are 52,046,965 million people aged 16 and older in the UK. The survey showed that 29.10 per cent of respondents ranked being stuck on hold to a telephone operator their biggest annoyance of 2015 so far, which equates to 15,145,588

About Lithium:

Lithium builds trusted relationships between the world’s best brands and their customers, helping people get answers and share their experiences. Customers in more than 34 countries rely on Lithium to help them connect, engage, and understand their total community. With more than 100 million unique monthly visitors over all Lithium communities and another 600 million online profiles scored by Klout, Lithium has one of the largest digital footprints in the world. Using that data and the company’s software, Lithium customers boost sales, reduce service costs, spark innovation, and build long-term brand loyalty and advocacy. To find out how Lithium can transform your business—and to share the experience enjoyed by 300 other leading brands around the world, visit lithium.com, join our community at community.lithium.com, or follow us on Twitter @LithiumTech. Lithium is a privately held company headquartered in San Francisco.

The Lithium® logo is a registered Service Mark of Lithium Technologies. All trademarks and product names are the property of their respective owners.

Lithium Media Contacts
Eddie McGraw, Corporate Headquarters & Global
eddie.mcgraw@lithium.com
+1 (650) 430-1978
Katrina Estrella, Corporate Headquarters & Global