Caution waiting expectedWhen calling contact centers most of us have heard – “Your call is important to us, please hold” many times. If I have to be on hold for several minutes, I will get a bit irritated. I am sure most contact centers aim to minimize the time their customers need to wait to speak to a customer service agent but waiting is inevitable. On the list of Top 6 Global Customer Service frustrations in the 2013 Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey “waiting on hold for a long period of time” is second. We all know waiting is frustrating and I wish contact centers would value their customers time and find ways to make it more enjoyable.

It is challenging to provide immediate service all the time therefore contact centers should pay attention to the kind of experience their customers have when they are waiting on the phone to speak to a customer service representative. It seems that most of the time I am on hold I spend my time listening to music and hearing constant reminders how all the customer service agents are busy and my call will be answered shortly. I do not think this is very customer focused.

The amount of time customers will wait on the phone seems to be an aspect of the contact center experience that is often overlooked. Professors Baris Ata and Che-Lin Su from University of Chicago Booth School of Business have studied caller patience – their research helps to understand how long caller’s patience is. The researchers stated that knowing the patience of callers can help call centers streamline operations, minimize caller frustration and maximize customer service encounters. This knowledge also helps companies to do better planning when expecting surge of calls by being able to create more accurate staffing levels to maintain waiting time within reasonable timeframe. Knowing how long customers are willing to wait on hold, helps companies to improve their operations which will also improve the overall contact center experience.

Contact centers can influence the customer experience already at the point when the customer call is connected. Here are my few tips for improving and making the “on hold” experience more enjoyable.


1. Promote other contact channels

Inform your customers about the other contact channels which they could could use to get in touch with the contact center. Promote chat and email – with emails it is a good idea also to inform the estimated response time so that customers know how long they need to wait for a response

2. Suggest a call-back

Offer your customers the option to select call-back instead of waiting on the phone. This is also a good way to smooth out call volumes during peak times and agents can make the call-backs during slower time. Just remember to make sure that call-backs are made – otherwise customers will not use this option again.

3. Inform about self-service options

Some customers like to get things done without your help. It is good to remind customers who are waiting on the phone about the self-service options your company offers.

Companies with genuine focus on providing positive customer experience will try to make all aspects of contacting contact center as customer focused and friendly as possible. Customers understand that waiting is difficult to avoid but the length of time they need to wait matters. Please provide options and make the wait as pleasant and informational as possible. Show your customers that their call is important by providing a superior service from the time their call is connected to the moment the customer hangs up. What would you like to listen to when waiting to talk to a customer service agent?