Small Business Tells the Big Boys: Get Rid of Automated Call Handling.

Get rid of automated call answering and bring back the human being: that’s the overwhelming message from the vast majority of the UK’s small businesses to big business.

More than 93% of companies surveyed by Unicom, which specialises in telecoms and telephony for small businesses, said they preferred speaking with a customer advisor rather than an automated system.

Only 0.86% of those surveyed said they had a strong preference for automated systems, while 22.14% said they preferred to speak to a person, with a further 71.06% saying they “strongly preferred” human contact.

Only 1.73% said they preferred automated call handling, while just 4.21% had no preference one way or the other.

“Ninety times as many businesses prefer human contact to automated call handling – that is as close to unequivocal as it can get,” said Chris Earle, Operations Director of Unicom.

“It therefore remains a mystery to us why so many allegedly ‘customer-focussed’ businesses insist on automation when the customer clearly wants human contact. Even the sharpest automated system cannot deal with customers’ enquiries to the extent that a customer might need.

In many cases the automated call centre they’re in touch with is a bank or important service provider, sometimes a technical help line. Automation is fine if a small business has a specific enquiry and they understand the language of the big business they’re calling, but automation has no place in the case of, for instance, banking mix-ups or urgent technical issues that are preventing a business from operating.

In that case automation, which is designed to be fast and cost-saving, can actually be a liability because a customer will only get lost in an automated call handling system so many times before taking their business elsewhere.”

Unicom does not use automated systems, something to which credits its growth and success; it uses a ‘normal’ phone number, and UK-based people answering incoming calls in around six seconds.

“We’re a relatively small business with a small, closely-knit and efficient management team – and we are absolutely clear in our minds about what makes the difference to our customers: a UK call centre with real people answering the telephone, 98% of calls answered within six seconds, and managers and directors who are hands-on and accessible,” said Chris Earle.

“Our customer retention level is currently running at 86% against a sector average of around 70%. Of the 14% we lose, only a third go to competitors, the remainder being businesses that close or move premises for one reason or another, which is obviously beyond our control.”

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