Phone Rage in U.K.: Taxman Beats Ford in Call Center Frustration

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Photographer: AC/Getty Images

(Updates to add comments from companies.)

After spending part of my morning on hold and listening to something that resembled music, I later learned that the company I was trying to reach is one of the best at inducing phone rage.

The Student Loans Company, which kept me on hold for 15 minutes, was 10th on the U.K.'s "phone rage index," a ranking compiled by consumer website PleasePress1.com. The list is based on feedback from thousands of users and an analysis of hundreds of phone menus. A menu's number of options, length of introductions, as well as the amount of time it takes to reach someone, were factored into the index.

Topping the rage index was Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, or more commonly referred to as the taxman. When contacting HMRC, callers are offered more than 400 menu options across six services, according to Nigel Clarke, who founded the website that offers people shortcuts when dialing automated services. Ford Motor Company had the second most frustrating call center on the list.

Since starting the website in May, insurance companies and banks have dominated the ranking and account for five of the worst offenders. Ticketmaster and Transport for London, the capital city's travel network, complete the top ten.

"Unfortunately it seems the research undertaken has focused on a small number of companies rather than a true comparison of the whole market," Churchill Insurance said in an emailed statement. The company ranked eighth.

Lloyds TSB, which came third in the ranking, said in an e-mail that it strives "to keep things easy and simple for our customers, so we are disappointed" to be on the list. The company said it has already made changes and will continue to review its systems.

"No organisation likes to be in a top 10 list like this," Student Loans said in an e-mailed statement. "We are sorry if some customers haven't had a good service from us." The company said it receives up to 40,000 calls a day at the start of the U.K.'s academic year in September, which is it's busiest time.

British consumers may have spent as much as £100 million in phone fees navigating troublesome telephone menus, Clarke said. Soon the website will be able rank the worst offenders by sector and Britons can choose where they queue accordingly.

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