UK adults spend 31 hours of their lives on hold with call centres, research reveals

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British adults spend more than 31 hours of their lives on hold with call centres, according to the latest research from contact centre software company Aspect Software. But insight into how people spend this time has found by the time we get to speak to somebody, their attention is already elsewhere.

Findings from Aspect’s survey, which talked to 1,000 UK consumers over the age of 16, discovered that most people choose to pursue less productive activities, as over a third of adults (34%) claim to do nothing whatsoever, and 1% are fast asleep while on hold with a call centre agent.

This is clearly not always time wasted however, as 28% are choosing to surf the internet during this time; 6% would contact the company in other ways, and 9% are doing some work. Older respondents are the more conscientious and more likely to spend this time productively doing work than younger consumers.

But perhaps most interestingly, the third most popular choice of activity is taking the time to polish up on our artistic skills, as Sarah Pallett, head of marketing in Europe & Africa, Aspect, said: “With one in seven of us admitting to ‘doodle’ during this time, we are clearly not short of creativity. While our research found women are more likely than men to doodle, and with Leonardo da Vinci, Samuel Beckett and Bill Clinton all being famous for their doodling skills, it is clearly an activity everyone enjoys.

“The common view of doodling is no secret. Most people hate those who sit on calls idly scribbling circles and squares onto their agenda, and regard it somewhere between rainbows and ribbons in terms of usefulness. Because if you are doodling, you are not paying attention. And essentially, the best customer service departments should ensure that they engage the caller, not bore them. Yet with 94% of consumers admitting they have had to frustratingly repeat themselves while on the phone to a customer service agent, it is clear it is not just the doodlers who aren’t paying enough attention.

“Sadly, most companies haven’t taken the opportunity to respond to the recent change in consumers’ attitudes and this is part of the reason why consumer experiences are falling short,” said Pallett. “With more channels available to choose from, customers are now able to communicate with call centres through a variety of avenues. But this has altered the dynamic of their relationship with contact centres, and has greatly increased their overall service expectations.

“Fundamentally, consumers are no longer satisfied with the service that is provided. They rely on emails and social media as much as their phones nowadays, but companies have yet to provide more than just basic access on these multiple channels; the transition should be seamless. Any interaction between a company and a customer should be able to start on social media, for example, and seamlessly transition to instant messaging. This is the new gold standard for call centres,” she said.

“With this in mind, and with doodling actually being shown to aid peoples’ memory, the next time you are on the phone repeating yourself for the tenth time, perhaps you should tell your customer service agent to get out their pen and paper, and start scribbling.”