Telecoms score bottom in multiple-enquiry survey
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A new survey by telemarketing experts Readycall has revealed consumer goods advertisers to be the best at handling a variety of different types of enquiry on the same telephone number.

 Ironically, the telecommunications industry came in resoundingly bottom.

Surprisingly, Financial Services and Automotive (industries marketing, respectively, long-term value or high capital cost goods) were beaten to the top slot by lower value, repeat purchase consumer goods (a sector not so renowned for its widespread adoption of direct marketing techniques).

This survey was conducted in the light of two recent trends. The first is the growing popularity of using one memorable number as a singular point of contact for a wide variety of different enquiries. The second, consequent trend is the pressure on call centres to become response centres, employing more flexible techniques and technology to support multiple enquiry handling.

The study, completed this autumn, selected ten advertisers in five categories – financial services, automotive, telecommunications, office equipment, consumer goods. Each advertiser was encouraging respondents to ring a single number for any enquiry they chose to make. The survey then scored the effectiveness, efficiency and courtesy with which a small selection of different enquiries were handled, ranging from a brochure request to an annual report request.

Steve Wigg, Readycall’s Managing Director, comments, "In any efforts to implement effective customer or prospect relationship management, it is a patently logical step to try and funnel all enquiries through a single channel such as a memorable number. However, this study clearly highlights the inherent dangers of going down this route without the proper information infrastructure and people training.

"Although it would be invidious to name worst practice examples, we were staggered by the extreme unhelpfulness, and sometimes even downright rudeness which occasionally greeted the researchers conducting this survey. On the positive side, those who had made the right preparations for multiple response handling excelled all expectations with detailed personalised answers, follow-up calls, extra (relevant) information, and more besides.

"Perhaps the most telling outcome of this exercise is the fact that although both the very best and the very worst examples tended to be large brands backed up by sophisticated call centres, some very acceptable response handling was being conducted by smaller concerns. Effective customer relationship management is first and foremost an attitude towards customers. This survey makes it plain that technology and resource alone are of little use if a true culture of customer care is absent."

Multiple Enquiry Numbers

A Research Report from © Readycall Ltd
Fieldwork by LBOS


  • Many responsive advertisers offer a response number on their adverts which invites respondents to ring whatever their query. This contrasts with the traditional method of offering a response number only for a single specific query, such as requesting a particular brochure.
  • The objective of the project was to discover how well such ‘multi-functional numbers’ were set up to handle a selection of four basic enquiries.
  • Research was conducted amongst firms advertising in press titles with national circulation during the period April – September 1999.
  • Four questions were posed:-
  • Asking whether the company had an environmental policy, and/or a position on ethical investment
  • Requesting information on nearest store/vendor location
  • Requesting a copy of the company’s latest annual report
  • Requesting a product brochure
  • Answers were graded 0 – 5, with 0 representing vary poor call handling, and 5 representing exceptionally good call handling. These scores were judged on a variety of criteria, including politeness, helpfulness, efficiency and accuracy/comprehensiveness of resulting information. No judgement was made, for instance, as to whether a company should or shouldn’t have an environmental policy – the judgement was entirely based on the way the call was handled.

Multiple Enquiry Numbers - findings

  • Amongst the four questions, it was not surprising that brochure requests were the best handled type of call. However, it was most unexpected to find that a basic query such as nearest outlet should be so badly handled. It is perhaps a mark of the importance of corporate image in today’s business and consumer markets, that ethical/environmental matters are often well briefed in to the call centre.
  • Consumer goods had the best overall response handling, narrowly beating financial services and automotive sectors.

Despite consumer goods being low value, response lines are very well set up to handle a wide range of calls. This could be because questions around consumer goods are likely to be very various. This has been the experience of fmcg brands who have set up carelines.

Financial services and the automotive industry, however, are high value goods and services where customer service and management is vital. Either or both of these industries could be expected to have scored better in their call handling

  • Telecomms came last, well below the average for the other sectors. The lines did not seem to be set up for any of the ordinary requirements. One telecomms company, when asked if it was possible to get hold of their annual report, demanded "who the hell are you? -no way!" and then hung up on caller. Other lines were only set up to handle sales calls, and couldn’t even send out brochures.
  • Office equipment came second last, a surprising outcome given the high purchase value of office equipment and the ongoing service/maintenance income which each equipment sale generates. A further concern for office equipment vendors is the fact that many companies prefer to standardise to one brand for each type of equipment (PCs, printers, various categories of software). Therefore, a badly handled enquiry could lock the vendor out of sales to that customer/prospect for years to come. As office equipment is usually regarded as a strategic investment, vendors should surely expect requests for annual reports as potential customers double check prospective suppliers financial health. Yet this is precisely one area where call handling fell down.

Multiple Enquiry Numbers – top performers

  • The top three firms in each category were:

Consumer goods:
Olivio Spread (also came top out of all categories)
Wellman vitamins
Pulsar Kinetic


Financial Services

Office Equipment
Optra Colour
Hewlett Packard

BT CellNet
Minimail pager

Multiple Enquiry Numbers – the numbers




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