The survey of 1,000 adults by leading communications company Moneypenny, shows that 85% of people believe that 11 months into the pandemic, an increasing number of companies are stating that there will be a delay in answering phone calls, or engaging in live chat, due to unusually high call volumes caused by the pandemic.

However, what is surprising is that people seem understanding of the situation, as 55% said they believe phone delays are acceptable due to Covid. Younger consumers seem more accepting of delays, than older ones: 73% of 16-24 year olds said phone answering delays are acceptable, compared with 46% of the over 55 year olds.  

There were also clear regional differences in acceptance levels: 61% of those in Greater London said phone answering delays are acceptable, compared with 42% in the North East and 48% in the South East.

Call answering waiting times
The survey also indicates the average length of time customers have to wait for their call or Live Chat request to be answered: 

  • 18% said they have to wait 1-5 minutes
  • 23% have to wait 5-10 minutes
  • 21% have to wait 11-20 minutes
  • 13% have to wait 21-45 minutes
  • 6% have to wait 45-60 minutes
  • 19% typically give up waiting altogether

Welsh customers are most likely to give up waiting for their call to be answered: 22%, compared with those in Yorkshire - 12%, and the South East - 14%.

Businesses with longest call waiting times
When asked which types of companies and organisations are the worst for answering calls, or not being able to get through to them, utility companies were most frequently mentioned - 33%, followed by doctors - 27%, banks 25%, phone companies - 21%. Those that were mentioned least, were legal companies - 6% and property companies - 5%.

There were some startling differences between the regions: utility companies were mentioned as the worst for answering calls, by 46% of those in the South West and 42% of those in the North East.  Doctors came out worst Northern Ireland - 39%, the West Midland 35% and the South East - 29%. Banks were cited as the worst to get through to in Greater London - 33%.

Group CEO of Moneypenny, Joanna Swash, believes companies are not doing enough to resolve waiting times: ‘It's interesting that legal and property companies were least likely to be mentioned for poor answering times and we know from our clients in these sectors that they prioritise good customer service. However, the survey shows that the pandemic is too often being used as a scapegoat for companies delivering unbelievably poor communications, and consumers should not accept this as inevitable.  Even with reduced staff through redundancies and furloughing, there are so many cost effective solutions available to ensure customer calls and live chat can continue, so it's not good enough for companies to do nothing and to reduce service levels.  As businesses open up there is a real danger that customers will vote with their feet and move to a competitor if poor service levels continue."

Survey commissioned by Censuswide Consultants between 26-29th January 2021 of 1,000 UK adults