Brits get help to rage against the machine

Jul 19, 2013

It's mid-July, the school holidays begin and the Silly Season is with us as hacks try to pique our interest in these dog days of summer by penning ever-more outrageously tall tales. However we shall begin our Silly Season with a story that, whilst amusing, definitely has a sting in the tail.

PleasePress1 is providing a valuable service by collating and publishing information showing on a sliding scale those companies who keep customers dangling on the phone whilst racking-up healthy revenues from the practice. Welcome to the Phone Rage Index.

It has become a fact of life in the UK, where far too many call centres have become "stall centres" and the automated phone menus of some of Britain's best-known (though not necessarily best-loved) brands are driving customers to apoplectic rage.

PleasePress1 hit the spot when it was launched earlier this year (http:/

and helps users to avoid the slimy tentacles that would drag them in to the maw of hell by providing them with a map of how, when and where to avoid the call centre traps that will leave them hanging on the line and fuming with anger.

The website displays all the menu options available, (from those that are evident and to those that are not) and can shorten calls by several minutes, saving time, money and elevated blood pressure.

The free-to-access website literally charts the automated phone menus of many companies that treat callers with contempt. More than 600 such services services now have verified and shortcuts made available. And there are more being mapped every day.

Brits are angry about the way they are milked and bilked by these systems cynically constructed to maximise revenues whilst minimising customer service.

We are constantly bombarded with PR guff claiming that the companies with which he have to deal are "100 per cent customer-centric" when patently they are nothing of the sort. There's lies, damned lies and then there's the PR department.

After analysing an initial 1.5 million page views, the web site's creator, Nigel Clarke, has compiled an index of the most frustrating companies with which try to interact. Common gripes include dozens of menu options and tedious introductions that go on for far too long.

Henceforth the Phone Rage Index will be published monthly and will name the worst miscreants in a field where there are already far too many. The hope is that the bad publicity will shame them into doing something about their call centre access but, in reality, what are the chances? Not very high at all I would say. Still, it's worth having a go and at least PleasePress1 will help punters negotiate a path trough the minefield.

Nigel Clarke says, “As customers, we’re often on the receiving end of ‘stall centres’ that seem determined to keep us on the phone for as long as possible. Even larger companies with understandably complex departments have no reason to send customers through a maze of choices, only for many of them to end up confused and in the wrong place. It’s self-service with limited guidance and no guarantee of a result. That wastes time and money.”

Indeed, now that Clarke and his team have made more than 15,000 documented calls to call centres to collect data that will a save undue time wastage and stress, he believes that the combined ‘navigation time’ across all companies could be costing UK consumers an incredible £100 million in phone charges every year.

This estimate is based on the assumption that 40 million adults in UK make 24 calls per year to call centres. That translates to 960,000,000 calls. If each saved just 1 minute @ 10p a minute the savings would come to £96 million. And let us remember that calls from mobiles can cost over 40p per minute, so the £96 million assessment could very well be on the low side.

And now to the worst of the worst. Topping the bill at Number 1 is the UK's unloved, sluggish and heavily bureaucratic tax authority, HM Customs & Revenue. PleasePress 1 found that the department has more than 400 menu options across just six services, and is ranked as "the most frustrating".

Then comes (and this surprised me) the Ford Motor Company, followed the financial services organisations Lloyds TSB, Halifax and the Co-operative Insurance Company,which turns out not to be very co-operative at all as far as its call centre access system is concerned.

The bottom half of the Top Ten comprise Transport For London, Direct Line Insurance, Churchill Insurance,Ticketmaster and last, but by no means least, the Student Loans Company

an organisation that has an unenviable reputation for inefficiency and miserable customer service.

And next month? Well who knows? But keep your eyes peeled, it costs nothing to take a look.

Email Newsletters

Sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos, plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox.