Don’t Get Hung-up on Hold Times


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Whenever I hear contact center managers talk about excessive hold times in the queue, it makes me think of research our firm has conducted for one of our consumer product clients.

The problem:

As happens sometimes, the company had released several new brands and Marketing promoted them via an extensive advertising campaign. However, they failed to notify the contact center in a timely manner. As a result of the promotions, the contact center’s volume of calls doubled within a month. Instead of consumers waiting less than one minute to reach a representative, they were now experiencing delays of as much as 15 to 20 minutes. Of course, after numerous attempts to reach the department, some consumers just gave up and never did connect to the company.

The experiment:

Our client asked us to conduct research to assess the effect of the longer wait times on brand loyalty. We created two sample populations: one where consumers eventually got though to the department and the other where the consumers never connected to a representative at all.

The findings:

One of the major findings of the study was quite surprising. The satisfaction and impact on loyalty for those consumers that waited on hold for awhile but eventually got through was high, and nearly matched the levels the department achieved prior to the campaign being released. Though not very surprising, those consumers who gave up at some point were very dissatisfied and a small percentage had actually stopped purchasing the brand altogether.

I am not proposing that hold times do not matter. However, it’s so much more important to make sure that when a customer or prospect for one of your products does interact with one of your representatives, they are provided with excellent customer service.

This means:

  • The agent makes the person feel welcomed, important and appreciated from the minute they answer the phone
  • The representative acknowledges and apologizes for the longer than usual wait time
  • That the agent not only responds to the consumer’s direct question or concern, but provides them with additional useful information along the way

I have written before about the importance of setting expectations and I also strongly recommend utilizing technology that estimates the wait times. In my opinion, even up to a 10 minute wait time could be satisfactory if the consumer knows about it upfront, and eventually reaches someone who is a good listener, knowledgeable and treats them as a person first and a customer or prospect second.

Reaching a representative in 60 seconds or less is nice and appreciated, but don’t get so hung up on the hold times that you staff your department with extra agents who know little or nothing about the product, and rush the customer off the phone to take the next call.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Shapiro
Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 28 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies compiling the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business was released February, 2016.


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