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Ensuring That a Customer on Hold Doesn't Become an Ex-Customer

September 30, 2013

In the call center, nobody ever sets out to deliberately place customers on hold. Things happen: call volumes spike, agents call in sick or unforeseen problems throw the entire contact center schedule into a tailspin.

Customers, of course, aren’t big fans of waiting on hold (or there wouldn’t be so many jokes and consumer horror stories about it). Customers become less patient every year: today, there is an expectation of immediate service, and long-hold times aren’t part of those expectations.


So how to ensure that customers on hold don’t immediately become ex-customers? On-hold technology solutions provider Easy On Hold recently produced a video that describes a series of tips for placating angry customers left on hold too long.

“Wrong or right, the customer is King and you must make them feel better about your brand before you lose them,” said Easy On Hold President Julie Cook. “This is the type of emotional situation that can be defused with on-hold music and messaging if executed with precision.”

Easy On Hold’s seven tips include the following:

Pick the right music. "We landed a major contract with a national cellular phone service provider after my sister-in-law sent me an actual recording of her experience with them while on hold. It was so, so horrible – this distorted little music clip repeating over and over. It made you want to hang up," Cook says. The quality and content of the hold music can make a big difference.

Avoid the self-congratulatory diatribe. Cook notes to companies should avoid fluffy, grandiose content that talks about how great your company or organization is: "The caller doesn’t believe a word of it anyway, especially when they just shelled out big bucks for your failed product. Steam is coming out of their ears, so stop talking about how great you are. It’s not the time or the place.”

Don’t repeat the message. "If your hold times are longer than four minutes – or can be at peak times–your productions must be long enough so the caller doesn’t get tired of hearing the same thing over and over and growing more exasperated by the minute. It’s okay to repeat a call to action or time-sensitive message, but rephrase it a few different ways so it doesn’t sound like an endlessly repeating loop," Cook says.

Find the right balance of music and talk. "The caller needs time to listen and think about what you’re saying, so offer a pleasing balance of 20 to 25 seconds of talking, with an equal amount of music,” says Cook, who notes that this is not an exact formula and will vary from business to business, but it’s a good place to start.

Turn it into a self-service opportunity. You can use the opportunity to point the customer to effective self-service options so he or she can solve the problem without remaining on hold. Not every caller may respond to this, but some people truly like to “do it themselves.”

Don’t tell them ‘their call is valuable.’ "Callers don’t buy it," Cook says. "If the call was important, you wouldn’t have placed them on hold. We know you’re simply trying to convey that you care, but it’s pre-recorded and they know it. Callers will only feel important when they finally get the help they really called about in the first place.”

Change the music. Music that keeps repeating over and over again emphasizes that the caller has been on hold for a long time. By changing the music after about four minutes, you can give the impression that the wait time is shorter than it really is. Cook says, “A variety of music tracks constantly rotating can do the trick. If you have repeat callers, this is especially helpful. And every few weeks, freshen up the content."




Edited by Alisen Downey

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