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Nearly 90% of People Prefer Speaking to a Live Customer Service Agent on the Phone, Despite Efficiency of Phone Menus for Businesses

April 11, 2019

by Riley Panko

Marketing Communications Manager

Almost three-fourths of people (72%) always or frequently end up speaking to a live human after encountering a phone menu and most people find listening to irrelevant options the most frustrating part of interacting with phone menus. This new data confirms the importance of incorporating a human touch in all customer service interactions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 11, 2019 - Eighty-eight percent of people (88%) prefer speaking to a live customer service agent instead of navigating a phone menu. Clutch, the leading B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm, surveyed 501 people who called a business at least three times in the past six months to analyze how businesses should set up their phone menus.

Businesses often use automated communication to save time and money, but certain customer inquiries still require a human touch.

Nearly three-fourths of people (72%) always or frequently end up speaking to a human after encountering an IVR menu.

“Companies still need human representatives to handle the complexities of certain voice-interactions that cannot be satisfactorily synthesized and automated,” said Chris Connolly, vice president of product marketing at Genesys.

Before implementing a phone menu, businesses should ensure that the technology will benefit the customer, not just the bottom line.

“If [a phone menu] is going to more quickly resolve a customer’s issue and better route them to the right person they need to talk to, it’s definitely beneficial,” said Tania Kefs, vice president of customer relations at Aircall.

If the phone menu will only frustrate customers, though, then it shouldn’t be used.

Long Phone Menus Annoy Callers

Most people ranked listening to irrelevant options (69%) in their top three most frustrating issues with phone menus, followed by an inability to fully describe their issue (67%) and a lack of human interaction (43%).

Businesses may think that offering more options on a phone menu makes it more personalized and effective. A long phone menu, however, often only frustrates customers.

“I try to keep phone prompt options at or below 3 choices,” said Ty Givens, the founder and CEO of The WorkForce Pro.

Businesses can instead explore creative ways to personalize a phone menu without using customers’ time. For example, Kin Insurance detects an incoming call’s number and routes the call to different points of contact based on if it’s from an existing customer or a recent applicant, all before the caller speaks to anyone.

Human Interaction Still Key to Customer Communication

Phone menus shouldn’t replace human interaction, but instead make it easier and more effective.

In the end, a phone menu won’t be able to answer every customer’s needs and therefore a business must always include the option to speak to a human.

If callers cannot reach a human, they often take actions such as pressing zero (70%) or saying words like “agent” (65%).

“You should always have an open-ended option [to speak to a human]. You can map out all the theoretical questions, but there’s always going to be a percentage that you can’t guess,” said Kefs.

Read the full report:

For questions about the survey, a comment on the findings, or an introduction to the industry experts included in the report, contact Riley Panko at [email protected] 

About Clutch

A B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in the heart of Washington, DC, Clutch connects small and medium businesses with the best-fit agencies, software, or consultants they need to tackle business challenges together and with confidence. Clutch's methodology compares business service providers and software in a specific market based on verified client reviews, services offered, work quality, and market presence.


Riley Panko
[email protected]
(202) 899-2779

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