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Inside... The call centre

Last week, I tried to find out when our car needed to go in for service, as the erroneous reminder popping up on the display was annoying me.

Time and again, my call went through to the 'menu', then a welcome invitation to dial 0 'at any time' to reach 'an operator'.

I dialled 0 instantaneously, only to find myself right back in the infernal loop, which was even more frustrating than it would have been had the escape option not been there.

I finally reached a human, on the umpteenth attempt, by pressing the 'sales' option, figuring that they might want to sell me a car more than service one.

It wasn't my only tiresome encounter last week. There was the bank, which has reintroduced direct lines to branches, but redirects you to a call centre at the fourth or fifth ring.

Guess what the branch staff do: they can count to five rings as well as you can, so you still can't reach your branch.

And then there were the pensions people. You can e-mail them and they reply nicely, promising answers.

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But they will only send those answers by post and only within 10 to 14 days.

True, you can ring them and sometimes speak to a person, but the response is the same: by post, in two weeks.

The drawback is that, when the reply drops on the mat and doesn't answer the questions, you're back where you started, with another two weeks' wait ahead.

What is it about all these people that they're so reluctant to talk to you, or even reply by e-mail by return?

Does it really take 10 days plus to find the answer to your query?

Or is it, rather, that 10 working days is the company's target for responding, so everything takes that long and is generally dealt with by someone other than the person you first dealt with – in the event that he or she actually gave a name?

Around the time I was trying to coax a response about the car, the Office for National Statistics released the latest GDP figures.

And it occurred to me: if the Government wants to know what UK plc could do to raise that 0.3% growth-rate, I have an idea.

If any of the companies I've just dealt with really answered the phone and replied promptly, they would up their productivity – and mine – by a good deal more than 0.3%.

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