Why everyone hates the 118s

I have watched with interest the unfolding story of the various 118 operators (MW October 9). Such negative publicity brings the entire contact centre industry into disrepute, undermining as it does the crucial role of trust in fostering customer relationships.

Contact centre operators work as “ambassadors” for a business or brand, and by failing to meet even the basic standards expected from a service such as directory enquiries, these companies are putting a question-mark over an industry that has worked hard to achieve its reputation for being a reliable and trusted means of communication.

However, while I agree that the regulator must take a tough line on the 118 operators, I wonder whether the proposed mystery shopping activity is really the best method of improving performance.

There is no doubt that the experiences customers are having with these services have compromised the

brands the various players have worked so hard to build over the past few months. But apart from identifying the scale of these issues, what can mystery shopping possibly hope to achieve?

Using the agents as scapegoats, to be blamed for hanging up and providing wrong numbers, is a little hasty. In our experience, these issues could be attributed to a number of factors, ranging from the ways in which the technology is set up and implemented to the quality of the directory data. Surely, if effective customer contact and satisfaction really is paramount, the best outcome can only be achieved if the regulator works with the various operators, examining their business models, technology, recruitment and training process and performance management. Having worked with clients in this arena for many years, our consultancy practice has witnessed the positive impacts of employing contact centre strategies which bring together agents, management, technology and data to create optimum customer contact.

It is only through such a complete review of the 118s’ customer service that wrongs can be put right, and people will regain their trust in this vital communications tool.

Mike Hughes

Managing director




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