Who’s calling? Whistl publishes definitive guide to UK consumers call centres and performance expectations

May 2020

Poor call centre experience pushes half of customers' away and an unhelpful attitude can cause customers' to become frustrated. 

Poor call centre experience of an unhelpful attitude pushes over half of customers away causing customers' to become frustrated and leave according to Whistl.  The leading delivery management company in the UK has undertaken research with a representative sample of 1000 UK consumers to understand their use of and attitudes to call centres.

46% of respondents stopped using a company due to a poor call centre experience with men (49%) more likely to stop using the company than women (45%). If the product or service is used by the 45-55 demographic, the impact is far greater with 54% no longer using the service compared to only 25% of 18-24-year-olds.

The companies that have lost the most customers due to a poor call centre experience are within the TV, Internet & Telecoms sector.  48% of customers of companies in this sector have stopped using a brand or service due to a bad call centre experience.

The most called sectors by UK consumers are:

  • TV, Internet and Telecoms 42%
  • Utilities 29%
  • Financial 24%
  • Retail 17%
  • Insurance 15%

With men preferring to call Financial companies over women who prefer to call Retail and Healthcare organisations.

Call centre phone call popularity is reflected in different stages of life, with Utility companies called more by the over 25s; Insurance calls increase with age compared to Retail calls which drop as we get older, along with entertainment.  Healthcare calls peak under 35 and again at over 65.

When asked about who provides the best call centre service, TV, Internet and Telecoms, Financial and Retail sectors top the chart, however, these same consumers, who rated these sectors highly, when asked who provides the worse service, nominated the same sectors. 

When respondents were asked what defines a good call centre, men preferred issue resolution compared to women who prefer a positive attitude. Combined, the top qualities required are:

  1. Resolve problems quickly / Efficient / Responsive
  2. Do their best to resolve / Willingness to help / Positive attitude
  3. Friendly / Polite
  4. Answer phone promptly / no queue
  5. Listen to what I need / Understanding / Make you feel valued

Respondents were also asked what defines a bad call centre, with men most annoyed with being on hold for too long and women not being listened to, the top five experiences are:

  1. Unhelpful / don't resolve the issue / don't listen
  2. Too long to answer / long queue / never answer
  3. Difficult to understand / Poor English / Foreign
  4. Rude / arrogant / disinterested
  5. Too long on hold

Overall TV, Internet and Telecoms and the Public sector are the worst performings with Financial and Retail sectors performing the best.

We all have experience using call centres and that probably explains why consumers are so strident in their unforgiving nature when they feel they have been treated poorly. People are looking for help when they call a company and if they are given the impression that no one is listening or unhelpful ie ‘the computer says no’, they will walk


Companies cannot be complacent when considering their call centre operations, a bad experience will cost them revenue.  As medium-sized e-tailers grow and look to expand their customer support they must ensure that the experience aligns with their brand values. They must treat customers how they would want to be treated when calling a call centre helpline.

Melanie Darvall, Director Marketing & Communications, Whistl,

Read the full report and download it to share:

What customer expect from a Contact Centre solution 

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