looking at an angry watch while waiting on hold

Top 3 Reasons Customers Hate Waiting on Hold

6 min to read · By Mindful

Know anyone who enjoys waiting on hold?

We don’t.

Yet one study shows that the average person spends an outrageous 43 days of their life waiting on the phone to talk to a service agent.

While we’re fighting to make hold times extinct, the reality is that customers are bound to experience waiting on hold more often than not. And on top of being a frustrating experience, those long hold times directly affect customer satisfaction and brand perception, ultimately impacting a business’s bottom line.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see why customers hate being put on hold (we’ve all experienced it, after all). But to truly fix the problem requires customer empathy and a clear understanding of what causes that frustration in the first place.

Reason #1: Customers hate wasting time.

Between getting to work, picking up the kids, running errands, catching up with friends, and a slew of other tasks, your customers rarely (if ever) have the flexibility to sit on the phone listening to hold music.

The last thing customers want is to put their life on pause while waiting for support.

After two decades of helping our clients reduce and eliminate their hold times, we’ve discovered two critical waiting thresholds for customers on hold:

  • 60% of customers wouldn’t wait for more than one minute on hold.
  • 90% of customers would hang up the phone after waiting for five minutes on hold.

If you’re asking your callers to wait more than five minutes, you’re almost guaranteed to lose the call—or worse, have them become repeat callers that slash contact center efficiency.

The solution: Offer a callback option.

Instead of letting callers grow more frustrated with every passing minute of hold time, offer them the option of hanging up the phone and receiving a callback from an agent—either as soon as one is available or at a later time that is more convenient for them.

When a customer opts-in for a callback, their perspective of their wait times shifts from negative to positive—leading to a more amicable, less frustrated call when they finally get in touch with an agent.

And that positive sentiment carries over into how they also talk about your business. Our data suggest that customers who opt in to a virtual queue and receive a callback consistently have a 4% higher net promoter score (NPS) than customers who wait on traditional hold—regardless of how long their hold time is.

Reason #2: Customers feel unappreciated.

From a business perspective, we know it’s not feasible for a business or contact center to answer every call as soon as the phone rings. But your customers don’t think that way. They’re not concerned with how many agents you have on the floor or how many other callers are waiting on hold. Customers only think about getting a resolution to their question or issue when they call.

Hold time isn’t just wasted time. To the customer, long hold times communicate that you don’t value or appreciate them enough to be there for them when they need support.

The implications of this are dire. If customers don’t feel valued by your business, they’ll take their business elsewhere. A poll by Emplifi found that four out of five customers would stop doing business with a company after “three or fewer” poor customer experiences, and one out of five would leave after just a single bad experience.

The solution: Provide omnichannel support.

Customers are looking for quick solutions to their questions and issues. An omnichannel strategy enables them to find the support they need in their preferred channels while also letting them seamlessly escalate to a more robust support channel—such as voice—when required.

For example, before picking up the phone to call support, a customer may have browsed your website and interacted with a chatbot to find an answer to their question. But when they couldn’t find what they were looking for on your site and the chatbot ran out of automated responses, they had to pick up the phone and start their entire support journey over again—navigating an IVR maze, waiting on hold, and then having to repeat their issue (for the third time) to an agent.

On the other hand, an omnichannel approach connects those channels and creates a seamless customer experience. In this case, a business could:

  • Install a callback widget on FAQ or product pages so customers can conveniently schedule a call with an agent without interacting with a chatbot or picking up their phone.
  • Program their chatbot to offer a scheduled callback from an agent if it senses it’s not resolving a customer’s issue.
  • Use AI to collect caller intent during hold times—both traditional and virtual—so they can route the caller to the correct department and ensure the agent is best equipped to handle their query.

With an omnichannel strategy, businesses can provide customers with quick, relevant support while simultaneously lowering call volumes and hold times in their contact centers—leading to faster resolutions, lower call handling times, and an overall better experience that recognizes and values the customer’s time.

Reason #3: Hold times indicate lower quality service.

Customers are already frustrated at having to wade through IVRs and wait on hold before speaking with an agent. But what’s more frustrating is the thought of spending all that energy only to be met with poor quality customer service. And the data backs this up: A study by Gladly found that 81% of customers believe customer service today isn’t meeting their expectations.

Customers are frustrated waiting on long hold times because it reinforces their expectation of a sub-par customer experience once they connect with an agent.

That frustration carries over into their interactions with agents, as well. One survey found that 14% of consumers have yelled at an agent, 19% have sworn at an agent, and 64% have been so frustrated with their experience that they’ve flat out hung up the phone mid-conversation.

The solution: Reduce call transfers and give agents everything they need to resolve customer calls.

Eliminating hold times using virtual queue and callback tech is the most straightforward way to reduce the hold time frustration. But it’s equally important that agents can quickly and efficiently address a caller’s questions or issues once connected on the phone.

The best way to facilitate this is to use dynamic IVR systems and call routing methods to collect caller information and guide them to the correct department or call queue—reducing call transfers across the board. And tech like Mindful Handoff works across all your channels (like website chatbot, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and more) to collect caller information, context, and intent so that agents can see whom they’re talking to and where they’ve already been in their support journey.

When agents know whom they’re talking to and why before hopping on the line, they can personally greet the caller and offer quicker solutions instead of asking more questions.

Summing up: Cut the hold times and surprise your callers.

There’s no way to spin it: Long hold times suck, and they’re frustrating for your callers, detrimental to contact center efficiency, and negatively impact a business’s bottom line.

So why not cut hold times altogether? We’ve worked with hundreds of clients and seen firsthand how implementing virtual queuing and callback technology to reduce hold times can dramatically boost customer satisfaction and contact center efficiency, increasing a business’s ROI.

Experience the difference for yourself. Give Mindful a test drive on your own, or schedule a demo with our team to see how you can create a standout customer experience that’ll keep your customers coming back for more.

This article was originally published in October 2013. It has since been updated.

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