Hold times on Customer Service Calls

We already know that customers are impatient and are easily agitated. Businesses are trying hard to keep customers from moving to the side of annoyance. However, there are many times when the first touch-point for customers is often messed up. Amongst the top things that rile customers are the dreaded ‘hold times’ – not just the length of the hold times but also the message and even the music. Hold times on customer service calls when badly managed not only create a poor impression of your company but could also be the reason that customers hang up and never call back. Of course customers understand that if your company is the kind that receives a high volume of calls, there would be hold times and it is these that must be deftly managed in order to not irritate and vex your customers.

The truth is customers expect that you would value their call and the business they give or the business they can give and hold times on customer service calls can be the make or break of a future deal. What the customer perceives of your company during the hold times has a significant tell on how the customer would react when they actually speak with the customer service person and even whether they would continue their association beyond this first touch-point. Even though it may seem to you that hold times – length, music, message – cannot have a high impact since all the customer is doing is listening in, the converse is actually true. These hold times on customer service calls have a huge impact – whether it is positive or frustrating for the customer, depends on what your business does with it.

It’s probably perplexing for businesses to understand why hold times can such a deep impact on customers. The reason is that this is the time that the customer’s attention is completely on your business – it is a close quarter encounter. It is significant from a customer’s point of view because they are only using their auditory senses to understand your company but yet it is vital to them. Companies are unable to understand how this can have such a dramatic effect since they do not equate if with verbal or written communication. Companies are not listening well enough if they cannot understand the frustration of customers. We are certain that as customers you too hate being put on hold even if it is legitimate and are equally irritated by the tone and content of the messages and even the music therein. Customers are already investing in your business, to top that you make them waste valuable time and money so that you can be called for more business or even a query? Seriously!? Despite this you are unable to see why it vexes them so much!

It is not prudent to silence during hold times since customers then are unsure of whether the call is still connected or whether they were cut off. Therefore music and the recorded messages are vital but must be done prudently.  Let’s just take a look at what some companies are doing that throw their callers into a tizzy and annoyed fit every time they are put on hold.

  • Slow and drab music that sounds more like the company is in mourning and also the hold times is devoid of any on hold message with sensible content is a serious way to irritate your customers and tell them that we don’t really care. A friend called this bank for some issue with her credit card. She hung up in a minute since the music was so monotonous and the message was an annoying voice announcing how important her call was to them. Her query ended up as a complaint to the head office of the bank instead. She plans to pay off the card and discontinue her association with this bank. Is this how your company’s customer complaints are increasing too and is this one of the reasons you are losing customers?
  • If someone is calling your company either as a customer or would be customer, they are not pleased about being forced to ‘take a look at your services on the company website www.xyz .com. The truth is the most people already search for a lot of information and conduct a number of transactions on-line and in fact would have got your number from your website. So a hold message that keeps reminding them of this would be like telling them repeatedly something they know already. It would be worse for them if they were unable to find something on your website and this necessitated the need to call and hold to speak with a customer service representative. Stop torturing your customers by the hold times on customer service calls!
  • Ever wonder, when you call as a customer, who chose the music that is played on hold. Hear the music on the phone as a test before actually putting it on for customers to hear. Does the music make you grit your teeth or want to bang your head against the wall or even go off to sleep? Is the recording well-done and free of distortions and breaks? Customers are not expecting to hear a high quality music experience, but as a company it is your duty to ensure that your customer is not riled and annoyed when hearing the music. Not only would they be mad at you, it would keep them upset for a while. Make the changes now to ensure that your claims of high customer service levels will be visible at this very first stage of customer interactions.
  • Everyone understands that every business needs to sell and gain new customers. However, do you really need to drive your callers crazy by playing a recorded message that is selling to them even though they might already be customers? A gentle reminder weaved in to the overall message is fine but to repeat the sales message every few seconds will only serve to irritate your customers and make them resolve never to want to listen to anything your company says in the future too. Keep the hold times on customer calls as calming and listening friendly as possible.
  • It is a good idea to offer some helpful service tips to your customers as they hold. If your business is about looking after the health and beauty of customers, a tip related to this would be immensely helpful. It is important to remember that the ‘tip’ is updated though such that you are not boring your customers especially the ones that need to call repeatedly.
  • Ensure that the hold time music, content and message reflect the attitude and culture of your company. If you want to position yourself as a youthful and vibrant company but your hold time content says boring, dull and laid back, you are unlikely to have too many people calling you back. Use the hold times on customer service calls to educate your customers and yet keep them engaged.
  • Customers would not minding holding if the message and content was exciting – what we mean is refrain from having the same message repeated in a span of 5 seconds. Take into account the longest average wait time and then adjust the message to ensure that in 2 minutes the same track and or message is not repeated. At least the callers have something to listen to. A great way to put in right content and good music is to keep the angriest caller’s state of mind as reference – determine whether your hold time music and content will calm them or serve to infuriate them further.
  • Use the hold times to reinforce your brand. Not by speaking only but also maybe incorporating the music and words associated with your brand that has served to hold the attention of your customers. The idea is to keep the callers willing to hold and also putting a smile on their face as they do. Tough call – not impossible though.
  • When serving your customers it is important to do everything possible to reduce their effort and wait times. Keeping this spirit in my mind, have an option in the IVR menu where a customer could ask for a call back instead of holding on. Ensure that the anticipated time of call is given and that the caller does receive a call back in the time window mentioned. Your customers and callers would be a happier lot if you can execute this system meticulously.

The emphasis on hold times in customer service calls is so that companies can raise their standards of customer service and before actually conducting business they can show their customers that the company is one that truly cares about and appreciates its customers and will go to any length to keep them happy. If your company has already given a customer a hard time and they are still calling back, why risk losing the customer altogether by showing them shoddy service via the hold times. Focus on your customers and you will do everything possible to make every experience memorable – including hold times on customer service calls.

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