What Is an Acceptable Hold Time?

The most important role in the call center business is that of the customers. Customers are the blood of the call center industry. Without customers, more specifically happy customers, call centers will go out of business. Take a center that is providing an ultra cheap service with horrible customer support, customer service always catches up and those businesses will eventually close their doors if they are not putting the customers first. To ensure customer retention, a client’s needs are first and foremost. It is true what they say that the “Customer is king”. The bottom-line is answering services need to do whatever it takes to keep the customer satisfied. One thing that customers don’t tolerate well is being put on hold. While sometimes it is inevitable (like waiting to speak to someone who may be on the other line), it is not welcomed. Does an acceptable hold time exist? Are there ways to reduce hold times or distract callers so they don’t mind being on hold? We will discuss these points throughout this article and hopefully produce some good strategies.

In order to define the service levels, goals, etc., call center management must understand what an acceptable hold time is.

Hold time refers to the amount of time a caller is waiting to speak with a live operator. The customers come in with varying issues therefore a fixed time cannot be defined within which the customer query has to be resolved. The time needed for resolving any particular problem would depend largely on the nature as well as the difficulty of the customer’s issue. The varying needs as well as expectations of the customers adds on to the difficulty levels in sorting out the problem within the minimum time.

Being placed on hold is annoying. In today’s fast paced world, instant gratification is king and being on hold is unacceptable. Here is a neat thing to do; the next time you are waiting on hold, set a stopwatch to see how long you actually are on hold. Even if you are only on hold for one minute, it seems like an eternity. This is why call centers are always trying to reduce the amount of time a person is placed in the hold queue.

While the need to place callers on hold is often inevitable, here are several factors that can help reduce hold times or make the callers not mind being on hold as much:

1.

Economize each call: By taking each call as quickly, accurately and efficiently as possible, valuable time is saved. This does not mean train your CSR’s to rush the caller off the phone. More so, train your agents on the customers call scripts and any keep them updated on any changes on your software to increase their proficiency. Having an operator stumble around even for a few seconds can have a domino effect.

2. Utilize non CSR staff: Call centers will usually have peak times with “expected” spikes in traffic. If you were to graph excessive hold times, you see that these instances often occur around the same time. By having your management, billing and bookkeeping staff available to answer phone calls, you can handle more calls and these hold times can be reduced.

3. Off premise operators: Call centers with multiple locations can send overflow calls back and forth freely between each particular office. This is an excellent feature to help streamline efficiency and deliver quality uninterrupted messaging.

4. Be creative: There are times when a caller must be placed on hold. How an operator goes about this task can make or break the call. Callers do not like being placed on hold so that you can attend to another matter. However, placing a caller on hold to perform a task on their behalf can be a positive thing. If the operator in the call center can lead the caller to believe that you are putting them on hold to check on information for them or to try to help them, they tend to be more grateful than angry.

5. Check back with the caller: We know being on hold stinks, but if the operator checks back with you to update their progress, it doesn’t seem that long. Set your software up to initiate a reminder beep in the operators headphones so they can check back with the customer and just let them know the status of their resolution.

6. Put a little music in their ear: While not a great practice for reducing hold times, this is an effective technique to distract the caller and let them know that they are still connected. Imagine being on hold for 2 minutes with no hold music in the background. Personally I would think the call was disconnected and hang up.

While there is no one solution to totally slaying the hold time monster, using a combination of the strategies above is an excellent way to tame the beast. Call centers that address this as problematic are often the most successful. By understanding what issues are important to their customers, a contact center can ensure for a longer lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

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