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Tips for phoning organisations or businesses

This advice applies to Scotland

You may need to phone an organisation or business for:

  • advice
  • information
  • to make a complaint
  • to apply for something
  • to resolve a dispute
  • to provide information about yourself.

What to expect

Organisations vary in how they handle calls and how long they make you wait. But the following are very common:

  • you have to wait a long time to be connected to a call handler
  • you are asked by a recorded voice to answer a series of questions before you get to speak to a person - this can be frustrating if none of the choices offered match the issue that you are calling about.

Some organisations will answer calls quickly and provide helpful staff who can deal with you query efficiently.

Preparing for the call

Before you make the call, it's helpful to gather information that you might need.

If you are phoning about a payment, such as a gas, electric or council tax, make sure you have a copy of a recent bill. Your bill will include an account or reference number. Find any numbers that you might need before you start the call. Some people like to mark the relevant numbers with a highlighter.

If you are phoning about benefits or tax, make sure you have your National Insurance number. You'll find this number on most official letters.

If you are phoning to make a complaint, it can help to write down the key points before you call. For example you might write down:

  • key dates or events
  • key facts such as the names of people you have spoken to and what they have said
  • what it is you are unhappy about
  • what it is you want to happen, for example, that the organisation changes their decision or that you get a refund. You might need additional advice to check if you are entitled to a refund.

Top tips

  • if your phone has a 'speaker' function, use it so you are hands-free to do other things if you have to wait a long time to be connected to a call handler
  • give yourself enough time to make the call
  • find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted
  • have a pen and paper ready before you make the call so you can write down information
  • ask for the name of the person you are talking to and write it down -  it means if you have to complain about them not being helpful, you can identify them
  • write down the date and time you made the call
  • ask for written confirmation of a verbal decision if appropriate.

Stay calm

Stay calm even if the process is taking a long time or you are not getting what you want.


  • all call centres and most organisations have very clear policies about how to handle angry callers to protect the staff that have to deal with the calls – if you're abusive to the person taking the call they might hang up. You might also end up on a list of people that the organisation is not prepared to deal with over the phone
  • it is fine to say you are frustrated and that you are not happy with the service you are receiving. This will be more effective if you say it firmly without shouting
  • the person answering the phone will usually have a limited series of actions they can take. They may not be in a position in the organisation to take the decision required to solve your problem
  • if you do feel you are being obstructed or that the person you are speaking to is simply not able to help, you can ask to speak to a more senior member of staff. If that does not work, you can ask for the operator’s name and how to make a complaint. 

If you have difficulty using a phone you can get help from a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.


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