Phone hotlines leave customers frustrated, survey shows

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2007, 12:00am

Telephone hotline services have been around for decades, but the quality of the service provided often leaves users angry and frustrated.

Most hotlines involve automatic telephone service systems, and new customers often find it difficult to reach the operator to make further inquiries, a South China Morning Post survey has found.

A specific link to reach an operator is not provided by some hotlines, and callers often have to go through several different channels in the hope of being redirected to the operator at the end. And some hotlines have longer waiting times than others.

The survey last month tested the performances of the services in various industries and companies in mornings and afternoons. It looked at five major banks, five telecommunications companies, three pay television companies and three internet service providers, as well as the government hotline service.

It found that, in general, most banks and the government provide the most efficient services, while telecommunications hotlines tended to have longer waiting times.

Internet service providers and pay-television companies' services were relatively unstable: sometimes lines were busy or operators were not available, particularly at i-Cable and its Cable TV, where waiting times varied from two to 10 minutes.

An i-Cable spokeswoman said the company was relocating its call centre, and coincidentally encountering technical difficulties with the system.

'We are upgrading our system to serve better: we aim to centralise all the calls, from [individual] departments to one inquiry hotline,' she said. 'But we are having technical difficulties in upgrading our system, and we aim to have it fixed in one to two months.'

Errors in the system started in May, she said

While the company had hired more operators to ease the congestion, increased incoming calls about new promotional packages had caused more traffic. 'We will hire more people in the short term to better serve our customers,' she said.

A Cable TV spokesman said management had produced a termination request form for customers who want to cut their service, and more fax lines have been added in the past week as alternative channels to relieve the hotline congestion.

Callers also experienced difficulties in reaching an operator while calling NowTV to make new-customer inquiries, and no specific directions were provided to connect to the operator.

A NowTV spokeswoman said the company had designed the hotline system to identify customers' needs.

'After the customer has specified the type of service that they need, operators will then pick up the call to provide further assistance,' she said.

The company would consider opening a channel to allow new customers to reach an operator, she said.

The telephone numbers for most banks' customer service hotlines are easy to find. HSBC, Bank of China, Hang Seng Bank and Citibank's were available on their website; but Standard Chartered's number was not as easy to find.

A Standard Chartered spokeswoman said it would continue to review its services from time to time to accommodate customers' needs.

Most of the hotlines surveyed gave callers the solutions they needed, and operators picked up the calls after a short period of waiting, averaging less than two minutes. Services in Cantonese, English and Putonghua were available on all hotlines.

Advertisements for new promotions were played after callers selected the preferred language.

The survey found that most operators helped callers with patience and a positive manner.