Using Technology to Reduce Customer Frustration

customer frustrated on the phone

Customer loyalty is the make-or-break for most businesses. If customers do not keep coming back to you, and are not advocates of your organisation, then churn will become increasingly damaging.

Keith Pearce identifies how a dynamic contact centre can increase customer retention.Customer service is the largest single influence on consumer loyalty. Genesys research has shown that 46 per cent of people in the UK feel that service is their number one driver for loyalty, compared to only 33 per cent who felt that product quality was key. So if you can achieve both excellent service and product quality, then your business will have high loyalty, and help drive profits up!

Contact Centres are striving to achieve that ‘traditional’ feeling of customer satisfaction, and so it is important to analyse how customers feel about contact centres, and identify what it is that they dislike in order to see how we can stop them becoming frustrated and less loyal as a result.

Customer Frustration

The research identified that there are three main areas of customer frustration in the contact centre:

  • Hold times
  • Interactive Voice Response systems (IVRs)
  • Call transfers.

Businesses need to be aware that these areas can cause a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst customers, and ensure they work to avoid it.

1. Hold Times
We all know that a great enemy of customer satisfaction is hold time. Long hold times are a prime cause of customer frustration for 66 per cent of people in the UK.

There are three main strategies to reduce hold times:

More staff

If you have long hold times then chances are that you do not have enough staff on the phone. Adding staff is frequently a solution to hold times, but in the current economic climate it is not always the easy answer. Fortunately, there are some technologies which can also help.

Skills-based routing

With automated identification services, you can capture information about the customer and what it is they require. This information can run through a skills-based routing engine to find the right agent, equipped to handle the enquiry correctly, first time. By using skills-based routing it is possible to widen the pool of agents that are available to answer a call type. This means that you do not have calls queuing while you have staff available who could take that call.

Virtual Hold

An additional tool that can be used to eliminate hold times altogether is to provide a virtual hold. Offering a customer a call-back service at a time where the contact centre is at full capacity gives the option of waiting on the phone, or being contacted at a time when an agent becomes available, without losing their place in the queue.

2. Poorly designed IVRs

Research in 2005 showed that almost 80 per cent of customers accept voice self-service as an alternative to a 24-hour agent service, but 70 per cent of people do get frustrated by IVRs that have too many or incorrect options within them.

The problem that contact centres face with IVR is a design one. Research shows that 86 per cent of UK customers feel that they have no choice but to use the IVR option, and of those, 80 per cent react negatively.

Creating a simple-to-use voice application will significantly help stop customer frustration. Part of the design process must include consideration of how to make the IVR option seem like an opt-in for callers.

If customers are happy to use a voice IVR, it is a quick, easy way to resolve their enquiry.

3. Call Transfers

Contrary to expectations, it is not call transfers that frustrate customers.

In fact 91 per cent of UK callers would like to be transferred if the person they speak to next is better able to help them.

What frustrates customers – 62 per cent of them in the UK – is having to repeat information.

If they go through an automated ID and verification process at the beginning and give all of their relevant information, then there’s no need to repeat it when they get through to an agent.

This lets the customer know that the business values their time, and they have not wasted it.

Information sharing is the key to success. The contact centre needs to become truly dynamic and utilise all of its resources effectively. Information can be screen-popped to an agent’s desktop before they receive the call, showing all the information that the customer has given. Any re-verification steps should be made as short as possible. With other processes such as skills-based routing in place as well, transfers should be cut down, and with screen-pops throughout the enterprise, when transfers do need to happen, they can be executed seamlessly.

The Next Steps – Making the Emotional Connection

Traditional customer satisfaction issues have been on the radar for several years, and several forward-thinking companies have made great inroads into addressing these issues successfully through the deployment of a dynamic contact centre approach.


Managing those interactions well means that whenever a customer chooses to contact your business, they go away feeling satisfied and will return.

Keith Pearce is EMEA Marketing Director, Genesys.

[Do you agree with Keith? Are you doing other things to reduce caller frustration? Leave your thoughts in an email to Call Centre Helper]

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 7th May 2008 - Last modified: 11th Aug 2022
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  • I tend to find that new technology is too often promoted as a way of solving call centre problems, when good old fashioned management techniques would go a lot further.

    jamesportcullis 7 May at 13:54
  • I believe option to speak to an agent should be the 1st option on the IVR. Rest of the options should be only thrown if the customers opt for them to make it easier.

    Prashant shetty 9 May at 05:34
  • Got to say I agree with the above comment.

    The worst offenders are banks and credit cards who insist they read out your statement before you can do anything else.

    And I almost never need the basic option provided and hate having to wait sometimes several minutes before being given the option of talking to someone.

    james reeve 12 May at 08:41
  • it was gooooooood

    saurav panigrahi 22 Aug at 13:08
  • very nice but i dont know anything about bpo

    sai prasad khuntia 22 Aug at 13:13
  • Companies get this wrong SO often. The following two things happen all the time, and quickly make me feel really stressed

    a) I’m put on hold and the hold “music” (usually horrible anyway) is interrupted every few seconds by a voice saying that my call will be answered soon. Every time the music is interrupted, I think that I’m about to be put through, so my blood pressure rises each time I’m not

    b) After having to remember a user name, password and memorable word for the company’s web site, being asked on the phone for yet ANOTHER password or PIN, which I don’t know as I make strenuous efforts to ring as infrequently as possible, purely because of all this.

    John H 19 Jun at 19:38