How To Avoid Damaging The Customer Experience During Hold Time

This is a guest post from Alison Brattle, Marketing Manager at AchieveGlobal.

Customer service is an increasingly difficult job: consumers expect prompt service and a timely resolution to their problem—and they do not like delays. Most of all, customers hate being put on hold; unfortunately, however, it’s a situation that’s largely unavoidable. Learning how to deal with frustrated customers is a key part of customer services training, but while this is a necessary skill, improving customer satisfaction means reducing time spent on hold, and providing alternative solutions.

Studies show that most people tend to overestimate how long a given period of time actually is. Being on hold for a minute feels like three minutes, five minutes feels like thirty, and anything longer than that feels like an hour. One objective of customer service courses is to teach trainees how to deal effectively with customers who feel angry over the amount of time they’ve been waiting. This is particularly important because upset customers need to be placated before the customer service representative can actually start to solve the problem they called in for.

The results of a survey by live chat provider Velaro indicate that of the 1,100 people surveyed 60% think that just one minute is too long to remain on hold. And while a good number of calls manage to keep hold time well under the minute mark, the average time a customer spends on hold is actually closer to 90 seconds, and for some industries the average hold time is a lot longer. According to a 2013 survey by Which?, energy providers are some of the worst offenders—of a survey that included 16 providers, hold times ranged from a speedy 17 seconds to a whopping 25 minutes, and more than half were over ten minutes.

Whether it’s a few seconds or an unbearable number of minutes, having to put customers on hold is definitely a problem. It disrupts the call, and no matter how short the hold period is, always results in reduced customer satisfaction. So what’s the solution?

Give Customers A Sense of Choice

Hiring more customer service staff is one way to address the problem, but it’s not necessarily a cost-effective one. To have enough staff available at peak times can sometime means that some employees are left twiddling their thumbs before or after those high-volume periods, so it’s hardly an ideal solution.

A partial solution for the hold problem is technology that tells the consumer how long they can expect to be on hold for. While the expected length of time may cause additional upset, it’s still better than not knowing, and it gives the customer the information they need to decide whether to remain on hold or call back again at another time.

One of the most effective, practical, and cost-effective potential solutions is the callback: instead of staying on hold, a customer leaves their contact information and receives a call from a customer service representative as soon as one becomes available.

Not surprisingly, this is an option that appeals: 63% of people would prefer a callback to waiting on hold, and 28% would prefer a callback to spending just one minute on hold. The callback is an attractive solution because it means the customer is free to go about their business while they wait, and it avoids the extra frustration caused by the hold experience. As well as this, the customer is given the power to choose between waiting on hold and waiting for a callback—neither situation is ideal, but the customer’s frustration is further reduced because they’ve been given the power to make the choice for themselves.

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