Please press the star button now if you want to infuriate your customers.

Mintel, the research company, finds the insurance industry's love-affair with the automated telephone appears to have backfired.

A survey finds that 60% of people who call a financial services company become angry and frustrated when being answered by automated telephone service.

And there is a familiar ring to the list of resentments – 44% of adults are irritated by the time spent on hold, 36% by the music played, 29% by not finding the option they needed, 27% by the synthetic automated voice, 23% by missing the option they wanted and 18% by the sales message heard.

Of these, 27% aged 25-34 used the telephone to buy motor and home insurance.

Just under half, 49% said by using the phone they missed the individual service of going into a branch.

The telesales specialists fared no better. Cold calling sales calls were not appreciated by 70% of consumers and only 15% were willing to listen sales calls offering services on behalf of various institutions.

But teenagers were more likely accept sales calls – 25% of respondents aged between 15-19 accepted calls of this nature compared to 10% of those aged 65 plus.

Mintel predicts that by the year 2003, there will be 270,00 employees working in call centres which will equate to approximately 1.6% of the full time work force. Many of these employees will be working in the financial services sector.

It is expected future financial service providers will increasingly use outsource call centres to take customer calls by major financial institutions.

US based general insurance telemarketing bureaux SITEL telephone sales account for 30% of their turnover.

The company rated number three in the top 20 telemarketing bureaux by turnover, supported ten direct insurers in 1998.

They also contributed $85m to the client companies

in newly written premiums and nearly 15% of SITEL's total revenue was generated from domestic insurance business.

The most successful finance products to be sold over the phone will be those that combine simplicity with value for money.