There’s a message that strikes fear into the hearts of you, the customer.

There are variations on a theme but it goes something like this: “Our lines are unusually busy at the moment but your call is important to us. Please continue to hold and an agent will be with you as soon as possible.”

Increasingly, you may also get a message suggesting you may be better off checking on the company’s website or ringing back when they are less busy (how are you supposed to know when they are less busy?).

Then you have my personal favourite. After navigating your way through countless automated multiple choice questions, the robotic voice on the other end of the phone tells you there isn’t anyone available to take your call, says you should call back at another time and cuts you off.

Yes, I know this is a 21st century, first world problem but my goodness it is irritating beyond endurance.

My experience of call centres was never good but it got markedly worse during the pandemic when service standards plummeted as call centre staff were dispersed to work from home coupled with staff affected by coronavirus and government restrictions.

But the fact is they have still not recovered.

In the past couple of weeks, and through no choice of my own, I’ve had to call my mobile phone provider, my broadband company, my energy supplier and my car insurer (and a new car insurer).

By far and away the worst was (and still is) my mobile phone company. I switched providers recently and now my phone goes to voicemail after two or three rings (it rang for 30 seconds with my previous provider).

I’ve been keeping count and so far my total time on hold has amounted to just over five hours and my phone is still going to voicemail after two or three rings.

In dishonourable second place is my broadband company, closely followed by my energy company and old car insurer.

Remarkably, though, my new car insurer answered within a couple of rings but maybe that’s because I called the ‘new sales’ number.

We really do deserve better than this.