More than half of UK phone users would rather deal with an automated call centre than a human operator for simple tasks if doing so shortened waiting times, research claims.
The survey reported in the UK Contact Centre Operational Review noted that UK adults believe they are left waiting on hold for more than 11 minutes to speak to a live agent, compared to 30 seconds for an automated centre.
Around 50 per cent of respondents were willing to use automated services for tasks such as checking their bank balance, buying cinema tickets and paying bills.
However, people still want to talk to somebody if their lives are being inconvenienced or if something is potentially hitting them in the pocket.
"Call centres frequently receive bad publicity and, more often than not, it revolves around how long consumers are left on hold before their queries are resolved," said Lee Cottle, chief operating officer at Vicorp which commissioned the survey.
"However, people's perception of how long they have to wait differs dramatically from the reality.
"With such a large number of people prepared to use self-service for simple transactions, the amount of time people have to wait on hold can be reduced even further."
Technical issues appear to be the biggest bugbear. Nearly a third of those questioned said they were willing to stay on the phone for as long as it takes to solve technical issues, such as internet outage or losing a TV satellite signal.
Resolving a gas bill and booking a holiday are the next things that are most likely to keep individuals on the phone, cited by 28 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.
"No matter how frustrated people get with call centres, they are an integral communications tool between most organisations and their customers today," said Cottle.
The research also highlighted a generation gap as patience appears to decline significantly with age.
The 18-24 age group proved to be the most tolerant, prepared to wait 16 minutes in a call centre queue. This drops to 13 minutes for the 25-34 age group, and nine minutes for the 65-plus age group.
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