A survey published yesterday has confirmed what customers have known for years but businesses still fail to realise, call centres are crucifying companies' reputations.

As the first and last point of call for most customers, call centres play an extremely important role in representing the overall accountability and helpfulness of large corporations. But instead of being greeted by the welcoming tones of well-informed call centre staff, customers usually hit frustrating automated messages offering myriad options.

The survey undertaken by customer support solutions company Transversal, showed that over half (54 percent) of respondent's opinions of a company had deteriorated after contacting its call centre.

We picked three companies at random to assess their customer service helplines at 12pm on Thursday — which represents an off-peak time for call centres. Surprisingly, Mesh computers faired best. We located its 0870 046 8340 customer services helpline number on its homepage within a few seconds. We were greeted with four automated options and then put through to hold music for a couple of minutes before being greeted by a helpful female voice.

BT came in second best. Its website was not as navigable and it took a couple of minutes to located the correct number, with most contact points guiding customers to email correspondence only. Its o800 085 2819 offered us just two automated options and was answered within a respectable two minutes.

In this instance, PC World came off worst. Its after sales support number was easy to locate on its website but we were met with a total of 22 automated options. We were then left on hold for just under five minutes.

All of these times were fairly respectable but the survey highlighted that 35 percent of respondents would like the number of automated responses reduced.

PC World was not immediately available to comment.

An interesting point that arose, and company's should take notice of, was that a massive 76 percent of people said they would be willing to pay more for goods if they knew they could rely on better service.