By Daniel Hunter

Nearly three-quarters of British consumers say they would never buy from a company again if there first first phone call is not dealt with well, according to audio branding specialists PH Media Group.

The study of 1,000 UK consumers discovered a low level of tolerance for poor call handling by businesses, especially among older generations.

Nine in ten 55 to 64-year-olds claim they would not do business with a company again if their first phone call was handled badly, while the figure was 75% among 35 to 54-year-olds.

Younger generations are slightly more tolerant, the figure dropping to 62 per cent for 25 to 34-year-olds and 64% for 16 to 24-year-olds.

"The research results provide a clear message to British companies - a failure to handle all customer calls to a high standard will result in lost business," said Mark Williamson, Sales Director, PH Media Group.

"Clearly first impressions count, so businesses cannot afford to let standards drop for a single call or else they risk creating lasting negative perceptions that will impact upon profitability.

"Best practice in call handling must apply to all facets of the experience if it is to be effective. This means scrutinising the way calls are answered, the phone manner of customer service advisors and the sounds heard while on hold, including music and voice."

The Welsh were found to be the least tolerant in Britain when it comes to call handling standards. More than three-quarters (78%) claimed they would not provide repeat business to companies who did not answer their first call satisfactorily, putting them ahead of the Midlands (77%) and East Anglia (76%). People in the North West are most tolerant (66%), followed closely by London (67%).

"Even in regions where tolerance is higher, at least two-thirds of people will still not buy from a company that handles their first call badly," said Mark Williamson.

"The onus is on businesses to provide staff with proper training on appropriate phone manner and to implement brand congruent audio branding, which ensures all the sounds heard by customers over the phone reinforce desired brand image and professionalism."