April 2024

‘Call deflection’ – how and why big companies treat you like dirt

They don’t care when you’re already a customer

I’ve been trying to arrange phone and Internet for a new home I have bought. So far, without much success.

There’s no problem when I call up the companies and press the various buttons showing that I’m a new customer. Then I get through to someone on their sales teams, usually in less than a minute.

But being an idiot, I like to test each potential supplier’s supposed ‘customer service’. So I also call pretending to be an existing customer to see how I’ll be treated should I actually buy any services from the companies. Then it seems almost impossible to get through to anyone. At EE I had to give up after almost 30 minutes listening to rubbish music and inane announcements about how important my call was. At Plusnet I gave up around the 20-minute mark. As for TalkTalk, Virgin and BT – what a disaster!

What I experienced is what the call-centre business calls ‘call deflection‘.

Every time a customer has to pick up the phone to call customer support, it costs the company £4, at least. If the customer’s problem cannot be solved by a tier one Customer Service Representative (CSR) and is escalated to the technical support line, this cost increases to £8+. Furthermore, if their problem isn’t solved at that point, these costs can accumulate, alongside the caller’s frustration.

Providing customer support via a call centre can be very expensive. This is why many big companies use ‘call deflection‘. They cut the number of call-centre and support staff and make customers wait 10 or 20 or 30 minutes or more in the hope the customer will give up trying to call. Throughout the waiting time, many companies repeatedly advise customers to visit their websites.

When a customer is forced out of frustration to give up on their phone call and visit a website, the cost of dealing with their query falls to only about £0.07 – that’s a 98% cost saving. This can massively increase profits at your energy company or phone and broadband provider or whatever company you have to deal with.

They know what they’re doing

Any modern call-centre system will constantly tell the staff and managers how long customers are waiting and how many customers give up. So, the call-centre manager can constantly ensure that calls from potential new customers are being answered relatively quickly. They can also ensure that potential new customers don’t get lost by hanging up.

On the other hand, with customers who are tied into a 12-month or 18-month contract, the call-centre manager will want them to wait a long time in the hope that they give up. In fact, the call-centre manager will probably have a target to get 60% or 70% or even 80% of callers to give up in order to save the company money. After all, if the customers are tied into a contract, there’s not much they can do about appalling service.

Moreover, any modern call-centre system will also have the capability to inform customers how long they’ll have to wait. Giving this information to customers would be good customer service. But most companies don’t use this capability because they know customers are less likely to hang up if they know how long they’ll have to wait for their call to be answered.

They want your business, but don’t want you

So, next time you’re kept hanging on for 20, 30, 40 or more minutes forced to listen to ghastly music and repeated messages about how ‘we pride ourselves on our excellent customer service’ (EE) and ‘we’re experiencing an unusually high level of calls at the moment’ and ‘your call is important to us’ and ‘one of our experienced customer services representatives will be with you shortly’ and ‘why don’t you visit our website at www. etc etc?‘ or whatever other bollox that some overpaid, over-pensioned supposed ‘customer service’ manager has dreamed up, you’re a victim of ‘call deflection‘.

Your call isn’t important to the company. You’re not important to the company.

In fact, the company really wants you to bugger off leaving them alone while they continue to take your money for their usually appalling service.

3 comments to ‘Call deflection’ – how and why big companies treat you like dirt

  • MGJ

    You are absolutely right. Their time is valuable but ours…not so much.

    I notice it is increasingly difficult to contact these companies via their websites too. If there is any CONTACT US option at all, it generally directs you towards some pointless, irrelevant FAQ (so-called). For something which could easily be done online, such as cancelling the service, this is of course not mentioned at all.

    Then there’s what I call the circular website, where you are directed to click lnk after link, often with multiple re-logins, before you end up…exactly where you started. BT is a particularly egregious example of this. I’ve reached the stage where I seriously consider sending letters through the mail to save time – except I’d probably just receive a form letter in reply telling me to ring their useless help line as regrettably it “cannot” be done any other way.

  • NoMore

    The other scam is giving an 0800 number for new customers (free from a landline) whereas the existing customers get to fork out for an 0845 number or such (charged at local rate).

  • Barry Richards

    Just call as a new customer, then tell them you are an existing customer that can’t get through. That’ll p**s ’em off. They’re all the same, maximum profits, minimal help.

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