Call centre menu options catalogued by frustrated man

 

The BBC's Mark Norman meets Nigel Clarke to find out about his one-man mission against call centre menus

Related Stories

Retired IT manager Nigel Clarke, from Kent in the UK, has launched a website listing the call centre menu sequences for accessing thousands of services.

He started the project after growing frustrated about the number of options and amount of recorded information on call centre menus.

Mr Clarke discovered that some automated menus have nearly 80 options.

It can take over four minutes to get to the service required if the caller listens to each stage in full, he said.

As an example, speaking to an adviser at HM Revenue and Customs only required pressing four buttons but it could take six minutes to get through each menu level, Mr Clarke said.

HMRC said it was working on improvements to the service.

"HMRC is looking at ways to improve its interactive voice responses and is getting ready for the introduction of new speech recognition technology," said a spokesman.

"This technology will react to what the caller says instead of asking them to select an option by pushing a button on their phone. HMRC plan to introduce these improvements later this year."

Labour of love

Mr Clarke said the website pleasepress1.com was a "labour of love" which he built after seven years of creating post-it notes of sequences he used regularly.

He used Skype and recording software to make thousands of calls, with the bulk of the work being carried out in the last six months.

Reporting a water leak to Lloyds TSB's home insurance department requires dialling a total of seven numbers, one at each stage of the call (1, 3, 2, 1, 1, 5, 4), and it takes more than four minutes to navigate the 78 menu options, according to the website.

"The companies have these systems in place for a reason," said Mr Clarke.

Start Quote

I'm not against the system, but I am against bad design”

End Quote Nigel Clarke

"I'm not against the system, but I am against bad design."

In an ideal world, he said, companies should just offer different phone numbers for different services.

"No menu is best - but if it is a necessity then design it properly. I think two levels maximum is ideal. Some stretch to three. You don't really want much more than that."

Mr Clarke said he was inspired to build the website after being surprised by the "emotional response" he got from people whenever he mentioned it.

He says he doesn't intend to devote himself full-time to maintaining it.

"I'd like the companies themselves to say, 'we care about our customers, we'll publish our menus'," he said.

When tested by the BBC, some of the sequences did not seem to result in significant time savings, while others ended with the user being transferred straight to a customer adviser rather than going through each level of the automated system.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 260.

    One of the things the designers of these systems fail to take into account is handset design. If you have an all-in-one handset that has both the speaker & the buttons on it (or are calling from a mobile), taking the handset away from your head to press the button suggested by the menu you have been listening often causes the system to time out... Grrr

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 254.

    I work on a help desk for a rather small company (4 of us on the Support/Remote Help desk) and it only takes 1 button press to get through to us, it really does make a difference as neither the Support person/Customer are pre "Stressed" out which allows for quick and easy help.

  • rate this
    -32

    Comment number 241.

    In my opinion I'd rather spend an extra 30 seconds or minute navigating menus then holding for an advisor in the wrong 'queue'. For example, If I need to return something to store and there is a problem with the website the 'online' queries will have a significantly larger queue then 'returns'. Better to have to press a few buttons then wait right?

  • rate this
    +41

    Comment number 234.

    I wouldn't mind these menu systems if there was any suggestion that they actually got you to the right person quickly. All that happens is that you have to repeat ALL your details and the reason to the person anyway.

  • rate this
    +93

    Comment number 41.

    Going through any more than 3 phone sub-menus irritates me.
    But do you know what 'really' grinds my gears? With some companies the first thing the automated menu 'advises' you to do is use their website for the answer to any queries before contacting via phone.
    They think they are going to save you time but in reality it's dismissive and insulting, like you aren't worth their time to talk to.

 

Comments 5 of 7

 

More Technology stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Man holding lipWitch hunt

    The country where a writer accused of blasphemy must run


  • Espresso cupNews quiz

    Which city serves the strongest cup of coffee?


  • Irvine WelshDeaf ears

    Five famous Scots who can't vote in the Scottish referendum


  • Electric chairReturn of 'the chair'

    Five people talk about their roles in Tennessee's execution debate


BBC Future

(NASA)

The five greatest space hacks

We present the ultimate in DIY fixes Read more...

Programmes

  • Leader of Hamas Khaled MeshaalHARDtalk Watch

    BBC exclusive: Hamas leader on the eagerness to end bloodshed in Gaza

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.