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The most annoying call centre agent phrases revealed

6th May 2011
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A new study has revealed the extent of frustration with customer service - and the phrases by call centre agents that most infuriate customers.

Almost three out of five US consumers have become so angry with a poor customer service experience that they have lost their temper, the survey has found, with those aged 30 to 49 the most likely to see red.

And having lost it, about 16% used expletives on the unfortunate customer service rep concerned, although men (20%) were more likely to resort to choice words than women (12%).

The findings, from an online poll among 1,018 US consumers undertaken by American Express, also reveals that unhappy customers were subsequently most likely to express their displeasure by insisting on speaking to a supervisor (74%) or hanging up the phone (44%). Just under two out of five also threatened to take their business elsewhere.

A key problem, according to Jim Bush, executive vice president of the firm’s World Service, was that too many firms still believed that customer service was a business cost rather than an investment that could help drive business growth.

"Investing in quality talent and ensuring they have the skills, training and tools that enable them to empathise and actively listen to customers are central to providing consistently excellent service experiences," he added.

But the study found that recorded service scripts did nothing to placate unhappy consumers.

‘We’re unable to answer your question. Please call xxx to speak to a representative from xxx team’ was nominated the joint most annoying phrase by the poll, along with  ‘We’re sorry, but we’re experiencing unusually heavy call volumes. You can hold or try back at another time’, both of which were nominated by 27% of those surveyed.

A further 26% were irked by 'Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold'.

Moreover, nearly two thirds of respondents believed that organisations were failing to pay enough attention to customer service issues. Three out of five feel that businesses had not increased their focus on this area over the last year, with just over a quarter attesting that they were actually making less effort than in the past.

The survey also revealed that, although 42% of respondents believed that companies were helpful, they did nothing extra to keep their business. A further 22% felt that they simply took their trade for granted.

A massive four out of five also said that, in their experience, small companies placed greater emphasis on the customer service experience than large ones.

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