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Customer Behaviour

Nuisance calls and texts are frustrating consumers and potentially damaging businesses’ reputations through poor communication, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Quadient has revealed.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) received 129,354 complaints about nuisance calls and texts in 2019, or 354 a day – more than the population of Stratford-Upon-Avon. These were not all obvious automated ‘spamming’ activity, such as automated calls or texts – consumers reported 56,324 live calls, alongside 58,425 automated calls, and 14,605 text messages. By far the highest number of complaints came in March (13,994) – more than double the 5,830 reported in December.

“While this number dwarfs the population of Shakespeare’s birthplace, it’s likely still only the tip of the iceberg, because many more consumers won’t have reported calls. Such a large volume of calls and texts cannot be blamed on just a few bad apples,” said Andrew Stevens, Principal, Banking and Financial Services, Quadient. “From damaging long-term relationships to risking an ICO fine, businesses will face the consequences if they can’t give consumers the information they want, when they want it, on the channel they request.”

“Considering more consumers will now be trapped at home and on edge about possible news, there is a huge obligation to act responsibly. Customer communication teams need to put the groundwork in – this means logging key details, such as which channels customers prefer to be contacted over, and what time of day suits them best. It means ensuring this information is available to all departments that interact with customers, so that contact remains consistent, relevant and useful.”

An important question is which sectors are most responsible for nuisance calls. The most complained-about sector was accident claims, which drew 37,983 complaints. Within industries where businesses could be expected to have longer-term customer relationships, banking drew 4,183 complaints, followed by insurance (3,792), and energy supply (3,581). At the same time, despite the deadline for PPI claims passing in August 2019, the ICO received 218 complaints about PPI-related nuisance calls from September onwards – which would be highly likely to draw fines.

“Taking the wrong approach when contacting customers can turn a historic relationship into a tragedy,” Stevens continued. “There are so many scenarios in which businesses are irritating customers. From banks ignoring personal preferences and calling during working hours, to insurers using the wrong channel and sharing new T&Cs through the post, rather than over email, to energy providers phoning to request meter readings when customers have smart meters installed.

The question shouldn’t be to call or not to call, but are you being as customer-focussed as possible? If organisations can consider the wider experience they are giving, they will avoid these complaints and have great long-term relationships with customers.”

Results split by industry

Topic Live calls Auto calls Text messages Total
Accident claims 18,671 18,769 533 37,983
Adult content 66 37 167 270
Banking 1,205 2176 802 4183
Broadband, phone, TV or other telecoms services 6,115 16,959 575 23,649
Call blockers 636 44 25 705
Charities 116 15 48 179
Competition 255 119 500 874
Computer scams 1,224 1,092 223 2,539
Debt management 1,528 2,616 902 5,046
Energy saving and home improvement 3,256 428 182 3,866
Energy supply  2,800 581 200 3,581
Gambling 279 43 845 1,167
Health 338 47 615 1,000
Holidays 200 27 343 570
Insurance (including car, life and home) 3,066 492 234 3,792
Lifestyle surveys 1,777 64 53 1,894
Oven cleaning 103 1,515 18 1,636
Payday loans 126 54 593 773
PPI 1,443 189 422 2,054
Pensions 243 40 25 308
Silent/no answer 1,237 1,908 57 3,202
None of the above 9,503 9,144 6,764 25,411
Total across all industries 56,324 58,425 14,605 129,354

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