Thoughts on Hold

A new, and anonymous, blogger has been talking about customer service over at I’ve Been Thinking. Whoever this person is, they are asking some good questions related to customer service. Their latest post asked the question "will being on hold to long make you change providers?"

I don’t know that there is a definitive answer to the question. However, our group does a lot of customer satisfaction research I have a couple of observations based on our surveys of how different customers groups respond.

  • Some customers have no choice. My wife recently bought a suite of Adobe software. When the software didn’t load correctly, she had to call their customer service number. She was in queue for two hours and had a rotten service experience – but what is she going to do? She really has no choice but to deal with Adobe when it comes to this software package. She may not be happy, but she’s stuck – on hold. The cost to companies like Adobe and Microsoft may be small, and those companies may pay little heed to what customers think about hold times – because their customers have relatively few options…for now.
  • Many customers will forgive a long time spent in queue if the service experience they receive resolves the issue and is exceptional. The problem is that many companies excuse poor service delivery because they’re trying to keep queue times down. Too often, the result is both long queue times and poor service. You may not be able to control the spike of calls that hit your call center today – but you can control the level of service you provide once you pick up the phone.
  • You don’t know if you don’t ask. Your customers’ reaction to queue times might surprise you, and it might be different than the reaction of your neighbors’ customers. How your customers respond to queue times has a lot to do with who your customers are and the nature of your business. Our friend’s question is rhetorical in
    nature, but there is a way for you to find out. If your queue
    times are routinely high and customers are abandoning calls left and
    right – then you’re probably wrestling with questions like

    • "How long
      will a customer wait on hold before their satisfaction goes down
    • "Should I spend more money to increase staffing?"
    • "Will answering calls
      faster help the bottom line enough to offset the increase staffing

These are all good questions, and a targeted survey could help
you answer some of those questions – and save you both money and
headaches in the long run.

Queue times and hold times will always be a part of the call center equation. How you handle these sticky wickets should be dependent on good intelligence about your customers.

  2 comments for “Thoughts on Hold

  1. April 23, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Great post and very interesting subject, Tom. It even got me thinking. 🙂

  2. April 27, 2007 at 11:40 am

    I worked for a mid-level computer manufacturer as a Tech Support supervisor once. They thought nothing of 3-6 hour queue times. I left for moral reasons.
    The company I am with now considers 90 seconds too long to wait to be answered. I am in heaven.

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