Garden centres are the UK’s best businesses when it comes to answering customers’ telephone calls.
A survey of 3,630 companies by PH Media Group discovered garden centres put callers on hold for an average of just 17.44 seconds, much better than the national average of 33.48 seconds.
Previous research has shown 50 per cent of callers will hang up within 20 seconds if forced to listen to silence while on hold.
Despite this, the PH Media study revealed 34 per cent of UK businesses subject callers to silence. A further 26 per cent play music, while 26 per cent subject callers to beeps.
"Garden centres are clearly doing a good job of answering each call in a timely, efficient manner and this can only be good for business," said PH Media Group sales and marketing director Mark Williamson.
"But the customer experience extends beyond simply the amount of time spent on hold and even if this window is relatively short, it can still have a devastating effect on business if it is not handled in the best possible fashion.
"If callers are subjected to silence, muzak or beeps while waiting for their query to be handled, it can create a negative image of the company and undermines efforts to deliver top-class customer service."
As part of the study, PH Media Group also audited each participating company, giving them a score out of 100 based on overall call handling practice.
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.
Garden centres averaged a score of just 25, well below the national average of 33, proving there is still work to be done when it comes to the overall caller experience.
"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 Williamson.
"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."