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Contacting call centres can be a right pain in the neck. Who hasn't been hacked off with being kept on hold for ages after navigating the maze of automated options?

However, the problem is even more acute for those people on low incomes. Many find that call centres are neither helpful or accessible, leaving them out of pocket, frustrated and under extreme stress.

Said the Citizens Advice report Hanging on the Telephone: "Imagine that you are trying to sort out a problem with your fuel bill. You are ringing from a call box and are running out of money waiting for your turn in the call centre queue. Or you are ringing from a 'pay as you go' mobile and your credit runs out just as you reach the top of the queue.

"Perhaps you ring the call centre number four times without getting through. And when you finally do get through, the operator tells you they cannot deal with your problem and passes you on to another number."

Although eight in ten of us have used call centres to pay bills or to contact a Government department, four in ten are cheesed off with the poor customer service dished out, according to research from Citizens Advice. Almost all of those quizzed could remember at least one instance of call centres not delivering the goods.

According to Citizens Advice, call centres in the public and private sectors have a long way to go to achieve the right balance between "high volume, resource efficient and consistent standards of service on the one hand and accessible, responsive and personalised services for all on the other."

It also found that some call centres based overseas lacked properly -trained staff who relied solely on prepared scripts to handle enquiries. ®

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