have been investigating businesses both large and small to analyse the standard of their customer service. Their 2015 report reveals their top criteria for excellent customer service and the businesses that have achieved a spot in the Top 50.

The criteria for all channels is the same, but it is important to understand these in more detail in order to see how these businesses are achieving such high levels of customer service.

Being Timely

Customers want to reach the most appropriate advisor as quickly as possible, not wait on hold for long periods of time. 15% of people will hang up after waiting for just 40 seconds – highlighting the importance of picking up the phone quickly.

According to this report for the Top 50 carried out by GFK at, the average time for the Top 50 to pick up the phone was 1 minute 27 seconds, with it only taking 1.01 attempts to get through.

Using an IVR will narrow down the customer’s enquiry and direct them to the best department or agent. This is more time efficient from a business perspective as agents can focus on resolving enquiries, rather than spending time transferring customers.

Being timely can also include the time taken to understand and resolve a query. Whilst customers should never feel rushed on the phone, dealing with a query shouldn’t take longer than necessary. Long call times would suggest a lack of understanding or knowledge in dealing with the enquiry.

Ease of Use

If used well, IVRs can be an easy way for a customer to self-direct where they want their call to be diverted. The companies that reached the Top 50 had on average 4.1 layers of IVR resulting in only 3% of customers being transferred.

Complex technologies like excessive layers of IVR or voice recognition can be frustrating for customers. Equally, confusing internal systems for agents to use will cause complications for staff which can have repercussions for customers.

GFK reports that the primary frustration in this category is that agents can often speak too quickly and not clearly enough. Ensuring that customers understand the agent is obviously paramount for customer satisfaction; but it will also stop staff repeating themselves, saving time.


One of the worst things that customers experience is waiting on hold for 10 minutes only to then be cut off. Ensuring that the phone system and technology you use works effectively and consistently will help improve customer service.

Technology makes the lives of customers and agents a lot easier but it needs to work well. It must be simple enough for customers to navigate and agents to use. The top complaint from customers according to GFK is technical or system errors, so it’s important to avoid these.


Comprehensive training should be given to staff to fully understand various enquiries that will come in and the best way to respond to them. Ideally, agents would be experts in specific areas, with a broad knowledge of the company and how each part functions together.

If the agent doesn’t know the answer to a customer enquiry, customers should be assured that they will be transferred and given priority to a person who does know, or assured that they will a receive a call back with all the information they require as soon as possible.

The main idea is to not leave customers waiting any longer than they absolutely need to – they’ve likely already waited long enough to talk to you.

It’s also important to give staff enough power to complete necessary tasks. Being transferred between callers is a big source of dissatisfaction for customers so avoid sending them to different people to deal with different things. For example, allow staff to complete refunds or action sales to avoid customers being transferred around.


Call centre staff should be extremely friendly, polite and understanding with all customers. Personality is a big factor in creating a lasting relationship with customers, improving their opinions of your brand and the customer service you provide.

Staff ought to have access to customers’ profiles and their history with the company. This way they are prepared for the call and up to date with any ongoing or past issues that may be affecting their current call.

It is also good practice for the agent to both introduce themselves and ask for the customer’s name; building up a positive relationship from the start. In this category, the primary complaint was that staff didn’t always offer further assistance. Ensure customers know that they should call you back should they have another query.

Highlight the channels available for further contact as phoning might not always be the most convenient method of communication. If you offer multichannel communication such as live chat, email or social media – tell your customers to take advantage of it.

Some of the top companies that feature in the Top 50 for customer service include: Chaucer Direct, Met Office, Co-op Bank, Aviva, Not on the High Street. Com, Nationwide, QVC and Tesco. The top 3 for telephone customer service are: Chaucer Direct, Met Office and Co-op Bank.

In order to improve customer service, companies should also monitor their ongoing performance. It is possible to do this through analysing when there are peaks in call volumes, what departments are the most popular, average wait time, average call time etc. IVRs are a good solution to analyse these figures and use them to improve customer service. have also looked at the effectiveness of other means of communication. For more information surrounding statistics around live chat, email and social media under these same 5 categories, have a look at their infographic here (requires download).

In order to improve customer service within telephone communication, all businesses should focus on reducing call times; making their systems easy to use; ensuring their technology is reliable; having knowledgeable staff; and making customers’ experience personalised. Achieving high customer service will not only make your customers happy, but will increase your sales and revenue too.

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