Research reveals lost calls spell danger for pet retailers

Pet shops are at serious risk of losing business by leaving customers hanging on the telephone for almost 40 seconds at a time, new research has revealed.

A survey of 3,630 UK companies by PH Media Group discovered pet firms are below par when it comes to call handling, leaving callers on hold for an average of 39.44 seconds.

The implications for profitability are grave. Previous research has shown 90 per cent of callers will hang up within 40 seconds if forced to listen to silence while on hold.*

“These results represent a significant challenge for pet retailers and could pose a serious threat to profitability,” said PH Media Group sales and marketing director Mark Williamson.

“Callers are simply unwilling to wait on the end of the line while subjected to silence, muzak or beeps, so firms are putting themselves at serious risk of losing business. Good call handling is often overlooked as a key sales and marketing tool but the telephone still acts as an important touchpoint and first impressions count. If each caller enjoys a positive experience, customer service standards will go through the roof.”

The average time pet shops place customers on hold compares unfavourably to the UK average of 33.48 seconds. Signmakers came out worst from the research, leaving their callers on the line for 72.64 seconds in an average call, while garden centres performed best, logging an average time of just 17.44 seconds.

Of all callers placed on hold, 34 per cent were subjected to silence. A further 26 per cent were made to listen to music, while 26 per cent heard beeps. But hold time isn’t the only consideration for businesses wanting to make a good first impression on callers.

As part of the study, PH Media Group also audited each company, giving them a score out of 100 based on overall call handling practice. Pet retailers averaged just 32. Elements including the time taken to answer a call, the number of tiers a caller experiences before reaching the necessary department, use of consistent voice and music, professional and personalised voicemail and out-of-hours messaging were weighted to reflect their importance.

“Good customer service is paramount for any service sector business so it is important to evaluate all aspects of call handling to ensure calls are dealt with appropriately,” added Mark.

“Inevitably, not every call will be answered within a matter of seconds, so when callers do need to be placed on hold for any length of time, informative and entertaining audio messages can help to maintain their attention and decrease perceived waiting time. Brand congruent voice and music are also vital in order to present customers with a consistent image of the company, reinforcing brand values and establishing a reassuring, coherent presence.”

*North American Telecommunications Association study

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