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Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone… 

frustrated on call.jpg

  • Long call waiting times top public frustration when dealing with organisations, according to research. 
  • A third of people struggle to understand financial terms and conditions 
  • ABI joins forces with Fairer Finance to further improve how insurers and long-term saving firms communicate with customers. 

Being kept waiting on the telephone is the top frustration for customers when dealing with organisations according to an ABI-commissioned survey out today. Next comes automated call options, followed by unhelpful staff, then hard to understand terms and conditions. The findings come as the ABI joins forces with consumer group Fairer Finance who have produced guidance to help insurers and long-term savings providers further improve their customer communications. 

The survey, conducted by Yonder Consulting, asked 2,000 adults about their experiences in dealing with government departments, local authorities, energy suppliers, insurers, banks, mobile phone networks, broadband providers, online retailers and supermarkets.  

Key findings highlight that: 

  • Long call waiting times was the top frustration, with 30% citing it as their pet hate and 61% putting it in their top three annoyances. Next came automated phone systems (46% in their top three annoyances), then unhelpful staff (34% in top three annoyances). 
  • A third of people struggle to understand the terms and conditions of products and services. 
  • Dealing with government departments proved the most frustrating with 43% having encountered difficulties, followed by local authorities (34%), and energy suppliers (33%) 20% said they had experienced some difficulties when dealing with insurers. Supermarkets scored best, with only 5% having faced difficulties.  
  • On insurance specifically, over half (57%) said they felt confident in getting the best deal. However, nearly half (48%) said that they found it difficult to fully understand insurance terms and conditions, with 37% saying that clearer, simple documents would be the one single change that would improve their dealings with insurers. 

Fairer Finance’s 'A Guide to Clear Communication’ covers all aspects of insurer communications with customers, including email, text, and policy documents. It includes references to good practice by insurers and long-term savings providers.  

Recommendations include: 

  • All sentences to be under 29 words. 
  • Average words per page less than 400. 
  • Use of at least three colours. 
  • Minimum font size and line spacing. 
  • Minimal jargon. 

The ABI is encouraging members to incorporate the guidance into all aspects of their consumer communications. 

Hannah Gurga, ABI Director General, said: 

“Whatever the organisation, simple, clear straightforward customer communications is the bedrock for improving trust. This research shows that some sectors need to do more to improve how they interact with the public. Many insurance customers know how to get the best insurance deals, but more needs to be done to ensure insurance and long-term savings communications are as clear as possible.  

“The industry is committed to ensuring customers understand what they are covered for and are confident that the product meets their needs. Fairer Finance’s report is a valuable additional tool to help firms further improve their relationship with customers. The ABI will be using it to ensure that our consumer materials are fit for purpose.” 

James Daley, managing director of Fairer Finance, said: 

 “Clear communication is essential in every industry - but no more so than in the complex world of financial services. Although many firms fear that it will be an impossible task to write simply and without jargon, there are now a growing number of examples of terms and conditions and letters which have low reading ages and are accessible to all.  
“This report provides firms with practical steps that they can take to simplify their documents and online journeys. We hope our partnership with the ABI will empower many more companies to embed clear language and design in all their communications.” 


Notes to editors. 

  1. The research findings were provided by Yonder Consulting (formerly Populus), an award-winning research and consultancy agency. Fieldwork was conducted between 3 and 5 February 2023 via Yonder’s UK Research Omnibus (online). The UK Omnibus is a Nationally representative online sample of 2000 adults (18+) with quotas on Age, Gender, Region, Social Grade and Ethnicity. The survey data was weighted to these parameters, as well as Working Status and Tenure. The Omnibus sample is sourced from Yonder’s proprietary panel, called Y Live Community. Yonder is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. 
  2. Fairer Finance was established in 2014 with a mission to create a fairer financial services market for both consumers, and the businesses that serve them. It publishes ratings across 20 different financial services sectors, and regularly publishes policy papers and liaises with regulators and governments in pursuit of its mission. It also supports firms who want its help and expertise to do better.
  3. The Association of British Insurers is the voice of the UK’s world leading insurance and long-term savings industry. A productive, inclusive and thriving sector, we are an industry that provides peace of mind to households and businesses across the UK and powers the growth of local and regional economies by enabling trade, risk taking, investment and innovation. 4.More news and information from the ABI is available on our web site, www.abi.org.uk    
  4. More news and information from the ABI is available on our web site, www.abi.org.uk  

Enquiries to:    

Malcolm Tarling - 020 7216 7410  Mobile:  07776 147667    

Helen Mitchell - 020 7216 7411  Mobile:  07834 328512   

Sarah Aspinall - 020 7216 7412  Mobile   07725 245297  

Emily Cole - 020 7216 7337  Mobile   07860 189072  

Myles Langstone - 020 7216 7335  Mobile:  07834 626206    


Last updated 21/02/2023