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One mishandled call is all it takes to damage a company’s reputation in the eyes of the customer, according to new research on the role of the phone in shaping consumer perception by alldayPA, one of the UK’s leading providers of call answering services. 

An overwhelming majority of the 1,000 people who took part in the survey are ready to make significant assumptions about a company from the evidence of a single phone call – and, importantly, the success with which the call handler delivers a polite and effective service. 

Over 70 per cent indicated they would assess a company’s ability to deliver high-quality customer service on the evidence of a phone call. One unsatisfactory phone call is enough for 71 per cent to view the company concerned as ‘poorly run and managed’.  

The findings suggest that consumers are more likely to choose to communicate by phone when they are unhappy or need help. Calling to complain together with a more general desire to ‘resolve an issue’ was cited by 70 per cent of respondents as the most likely reason for picking up the phone. Over half would call for more information in advance of a purchase (59 per cent) and for after-sales service and support (53 per cent).

When they do make a call, a ‘human voice’ – and not voicemail or an automated system – is important to 71 per cent. The survey demonstrates the value consumers place on basic knowledge and communication skills with 68 per cent pointing to unhelpful and impolite handlers as the most ‘annoying’ aspects of a poor call handling service. 

The research highlights the degree to which an individual call handler’s performance can shape – for good or bad – the consumer’s perception of the skills and expertise of company’s entire workforce. Over 70 per cent of respondents said they’d evaluate whether or not staff were ‘capable’ and knew ‘how to do their jobs’ on the evidence of a recent phone call.

The survey also identified an emotional response to the call experience. Over the half the consumers surveyed said they would assess whether or not company’s staff ‘care’ about doing a good job from a phone call.

“The research underlines what most consumers already know, which is that every phone call makes an impression, and, therefore, companies need to make every call count,” said David Joseph, board executive at alldayPA. “Consumers choose to make a telephone call for a very specific reason which, as the research demonstrates, is typically because they have an issue they feel can only be resolved by talking to a real, live representative of the company.”

 “It’s a tough call, particularly in cases where the caller is dissatisfied or angry. However, for the period of time the customer is on the phone, the call handler is the most important person on the company’s payroll.”

Joseph believes that many companies are failing to provide customers with an effective phone service.

 “With so many other newer, and more fashionable, communication technologies battling for budget, the phone has become less of a priority for many companies.  It’s one of the reasons why companies don’t see a problem in allowing their least engaged employees to answer and deal with phone calls.  But, as the research shows, that’s an error in judgement which could have costly, long-term repercussions on the company’s relationship with their customers.”   

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