Whistl reveals the secrets for e-tailers looking to provide call centre customer services

May 2020

Call Centre Customer Service Secrets for online retailers

Whistl, the leading delivery management company in the UK, has undertaken research with a representative sample of 1000 UK consumers to understand how e-tailers can improve the experience their customers receive when using call centre support.

The wide-ranging study revealed what consumers love and also what drives their frustration when using a call centre. 

So, some of the research insights showed:

  • 86% of respondents prefer selecting options via push buttons on a handset rather than voice prompts, although the voice prompt preference rises to above 21% for those aged 55 and over
  • 44% are very conscious of call costs which increase with retirement age, then drops back to 39% for those post-retirement.  Customers who have had a poor experience are more sensitive to the cost of the call, with only 25% rarely thinking about the call cost
  • 3.9 minutes is seen as a reasonable hold time; longer than 5 minutes is unreasonable but people would stay on hold for 9.1 minutes and 69% hang up after 10 minutes. Men are the most impatient hanging up after 8.3 minutes.
  • Most people prefer to call a call centre between 9 am and 12 pm, especially those aged over 65 
  • Listening to a recorded message on repeat, followed by lack of knowledge; a long greeting message and rigid script reading are the most annoying aspects of a call centre
  • Being told ‘we are experiencing high volumes, please call back later’ is an acceptable message for all respondents but increases significantly for age groups over 35.   The same trends occur when told ‘your call is important to us’ and ‘all our agents are currently busy’
  • The most useful recorded message is ‘you are position x in the queue’, followed by ‘all our agents are currently busy, press 1 and we will call you back’
  • Losing your temper with call centres happens infrequently (12%) and, when it does occur, tends to decrease with age.  It is most likely to occur with those who have previously had a bad experience with call centres

For more information on the call centre research from Whistl, visit www.whistl.co.uk/research/contact-centre-guide

As e-tailers expand, they need to look at how to best support their customer service operation, with many SMEs opting to outsource their call centre operation to a third party. Our research highlights that a one size fits all approach to call centre support will not work for everyone and companies must listen to their customers.


Consumers want different things and will tolerate and respond to call centre operations depending on age, type of business/service offered and the nature of the enquiry.  If e-tailers do not get this right, it will result in a bad customer experience, and as we know, typically up to 50% of customers will not use a company again if they have a bad call centre experience.

Melanie Darvall, Director Marketing & Communications, Whistl,

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