The 20 most annoying customer service phone lines have been revealed. The researchers have been hanging on the telephone on our behalf to discover those organisations that taunt us with the most irritating recorded messages and endless, pointless, lists of menu items.
And the winner of the most annoying helpline - for the second time running - is the taxman
Most annoyingThe 'phone rage index' was launched in July by consumer website PleasePress1.com. They searched through the 600 phone lines on their database to find the ones most likely to drive us round the bed before someone finally gets round to answering our call. They assessed how long the introductory ramble is, how many menu items we have to wade through, and how many menus there are - in order to identify the most annoying.
Now they have updated the list, and have revealed that the taxman has done nothing to alleviate our suffering - it retains the number one position. This may not be entirely surprising give that HMRC's phone lines offer an eye-watering 400 options for customers to wade through.
New entrantsThere are several new entrants to the list, including BT - straight in at number three, Sky - which made number six, and the TV Licencing Agency at number five.
Feedback provided to the research team included a comment on the Royal Mail enquiry line: "I cannot get through to speak to a human being. No option for my query."
Meanwhile one person summed up their experience using the TV Licensing Agency helpline as: "There are 4 levels of options before you can actually speak to somebody, even then I got blasted by loud Beethoven classical music - very frustrating!"
There is one company which has moved up the list - although it's not clear whether Ticketmaster made the move from nine to eight because its phone system got worse or because everyone else improved.
ImprovedHowever, not all hope has been destroyed by the continued failures of the firms on the list. Some have improved a great deal over the last few months. Lloyds TSB, Halifax, Direct Line and Co-operative insurance dropped out of the top twenty altogether - while the Ford Motor Company dropped 15 places to land at number 17.
This is a major step for Lloyds TSB, which was in communication with the website from the early days, and has fallen from third place to beyond the top 20 in just a few months. Likewise Halifax has dropped out of the top 20 from number four, and the Co-Op made a major improvement from July when it was in fifth position.
The Student Loans company also deserves credit for dropping from 10th place to 19th.
The worst 201. HMRC
2. Currys/PC World
5. TV Licencing Agency
7. Royal Mail
10. Virgin Holidays
13. Legal and General Insurance
14. Transport for London
17. Ford Motor Company
19. Student Loans Company
What can you do?We can only hope that the publication of the second incarnation of the list encourages more of the firms to improve. However, in the interim it may pay to avoid picking up the phone unless there is absolutely no way to deal with the company by email.
If you have to call, you could try using pleasepress1.com, which lists the keys you need to press for specific menu options, so instead of waiting for the announcements in the different menus, you can press the right number immediately.
And if you're still not getting any joy, the only answer may be to switch companies where you can. There may be no alternative to the likes of the taxman and the TV licence people, but there's no reason why any of us should be staying with a company that offers terrible customer service as part of the package.