79-year-old Mona Shaw was so livid that she took a hammer to her local Comcast office and smashed up computers and keyboards until her arrest.
What inspired such violence in the senior citizen? Shaw had spent days grappling with inferior customer service, only to be left without Internet, television, or phone—and without any idea if or when these services would be reinstated.
Though her manner of getting attention was extreme, Shaw has become a sort of hero for frustrated customers everywhere. Because the truth is, while her actions may have been exceptional, her feelings weren’t. 68% of those surveyed in the 2013 Customer Rage Study said that they were very or extremely upset about how companies responded to their complaints–and we all know that asking a customer to hold is a huge part of that.
What’s a live chat agent to do? When you have to put a customer on hold, you’re playing with fire.
You need that time to better serve them, so how can you avoid inspiring such livid rage within them?
Customers Hate Being on Hold
These two words are the cause of numerous abandoned chats, flustered customers, and wild accusations of your customer service abilities (or lack thereof).
The best option is clearly to avoid putting a customer on hold to begin with, but this isn’t always an option. If you are using a live chat script, you may find that you can respond efficiently and multi-task, preventing the need to officially put a customer on hold.
Only bring attention to a hold when—
- You are making a transfer
- You must leave your station
- You need to exit the chat for unforeseen issues
But no matter what, refuse your urge to use distastefully curt phrases like, “please hold,” and “one moment.” You should always use custom on hold messages, not trite and irritating ones.
A balanced and effective hold request has the following anatomy:
- Customer check-ins
- Email alert option
- A sincere “thank you”
- A fantastic script foundation
Always start your hold request with an apology. There’s no reason not to, and it makes a huge difference in how customers feel about your service. It lets the customer know that while a hold might be necessary to get the work done, it’s not your preferred method of servicing her.
According the Rage Study mentioned above, 76% of complainants surveyed wanted an apology from offending companies, but only 32% got one. You can see how a simple apology can put you ahead of the customer service curve. If you are backed up with too many live chat requests, use the following on hold message samples:
- We apologize, but all of our agents are currently assisting other customers. Please hold for the next available agent.
- We’re sorry, but all of our agents are on the line with other customers at the moment. If you can hold for a couple minutes, we’ll contact you as soon as we’re able.
Ask for Permission
Curt responses like one moment or please hold are not only rude, they give the customer zero agency. If possible, ask the customer for permission and wait for a response. Try lines like:
- Is it okay for me to put you on hold for just a moment?
- It may take us a moment to review that information—may we put you on hold?
Additionally, it can be helpful to explain why you need to put a customer on hold. It helps the customer understand what you need to do in order to resolve the issue at hand, and makes her less likely to feel that you are simply incompetent. It’s especially important to detail why if you are going to take a long time. Remember, the concept of a “long time” is relative—for some people, 60 seconds is pushing it.
Check in with the Customer
It’s important to check in with your customer so that they know you haven’t completely abandoned them. You’re at an advantage on the web, because at least they can surf around and look at other things instead of listening to irritating hold music. But don’t take this advantage for granted! Your customer may be on a time crunch, and may be trying to get certain issues resolved efficiently.
This is why it’s important to check in periodically to make sure that the customer knows you are working hard to resolve her issue. Check in every minute or two, unless you feel that the problem will take you longer than five minutes–then you should consider offering them an email alert.
Give the Customer an Email Alert Option
If you know that the issue will take a while to resolve (for example, maybe you need to speak to a supervisor who will be unavailable for a while), offer to email the customer when a resolution has been reached and she can resume speaking with a live chat agent.
This is essentially the live chat equivalent of calling a customer back. It’s a powerful move when you consider the fact that 63% of customers prefer a callback option to being placed on hold, according to research conducted by Software Advice.
Thank the Customer
The power of gratitude is often undervalued. Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino, and Wharton School Professor Adam Grant, conducted an experiment on the power of gratitude. In the study, participants that were given a sincere thanks for their help in revising a cover letter were about twice as likely to help another person than those who received neutral feedback. What Francesca says about the power of gratitude can easily be applied to a multitude of situations, including live chat:
“Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too.”
Always thank a customer for agreeing to go on hold. It’s a simple gesture, but a powerful one. It shows that you don’t take the customer’s time for granted, which is invaluable. Use the following lines to express gratitude:
- Thank you very much for holding, and sorry about that wait!
- Thanks for holding! We do apologize about that wait, but we’re ready to assist you.
- We thank you for holding and apologize about the wait.
Use a Fantastic Script
An easily overlooked solution is to have quality scripts that help you streamline the process of putting customers on hold. Scripts also enable you to check in on customers without distracting you from the task at hand.
Using an on hold message script can not only increase efficiency, but also reduce stress and raise team morale. Though you’re your responsibility as an agent to get a good sense of timing, you shouldn’t have to come up with every message on the spot. Start using an on hold messaging script today!
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