Research reveals lost calls spell danger for financial services

PH MediaFinancial services firms are at serious risk of losing business by leaving customers hanging on the telephone for almost 40 seconds at a time, new research has revealed.

A survey of 3,630 companies by PH Media Group discovered the financial sector is below par when it comes to call handling, leaving callers on hold for an average of 36.45 seconds.

The implications for profitability are grave. Previous research has shown 90 per cent of callers will hang up within 40 seconds if forced to listen to silence while on hold.*

But the PH Media study revealed 34 per cent of UK businesses do, in fact, subject callers to silence. A further 26 per cent play music, while 26 per cent subject callers to beeps.

“These results represent a significant challenge for the financial services industry and could pose a serious threat to profitability,” said PH Media Group Sales and Marketing Director Mark Williamson.

“Callers are simply unwilling to wait on the end of the line while subjected to silence, muzak or beeps so firms are putting themselves at serious risk of losing business.

“Good call handling is often overlooked as a key sales and marketing tool but the telephone still acts as an important touchpoint and first impressions count. If each caller enjoys a positive experience, customer service standards will go through the roof.”

The average time financial services customers were placed on hold compares unfavourably to the UK average of 33.48 seconds.

Signmakers came out worst from the research, leaving their callers on the line for 72.64 seconds in an average call, while garden centres performed best, logging an average time of just 17.44 seconds.

But hold time isn’t the only consideration for businesses wanting to make a good first impression on callers.As part of the study, PH Media Group also audited each company, giving them a score out of 100 based on overall call handling practice.

PH-MediaBusinesses in the financial sector achieved an average score of just 33.

Elements including the time taken to answer a call, the number of tiers a caller experiences before reaching the necessary department, use of consistent voice and music, professional and personalised voicemail and out-of-hours messaging were weighted to reflect their importance.

“Financial services businesses strive to present a professional, trustworthy image so it is important to evaluate all aspects of call handling to ensure customers get the right impression,” added Mark.

“Inevitably, not every call will be answered within a matter of seconds, so when callers do need to be placed on hold for any length of time, informative and entertaining audio messages can help to maintain their attention and decrease perceived waiting time.

“Brand congruent voice and music are also vital in order to present customers with a consistent image of the company, reinforcing brand values and establishing a reassuring, coherent presence.”