Prior to the 1950’s, making a phone call without the assistance of an operator was unheard of. In order to make a call, you had to wait on hold until an operator connected you to your party. After the introduction of the North American Numbering Plan in the United States, and similar systems in Europe, we have been able to direct-dial anyone we wish to call.
Despite this, waiting on hold is still very much a part of our lives. Time magazine reports that a survey commissioned by TalkTo found that Americans spend 13 hours per year on hold. Being on hold is now an unwelcome interruption during most customer service calls. Here are some considerations to ensure your customers remain on the line.
Live Answer vs Auto Attendant
You have probably spent a lot of time and money to get customers to call your business. But, we have found that businesses rarely give thought to what happens when they receive a customer call. If you can, answer your phone calls live. This will allow you to personally explain to your customer why you may need to place them on hold. If your business receives a high volume of phone calls each day, an auto attendant may be appropriate. When using an auto attendant, make sure your customer can reach a person after one or two menus. Limiting the amount of time a customer spends going through menus and waiting on hold will give them a more favorable opinion of your customer service.
Music on Hold
One of the more common, and seemingly easier solutions is to use music on hold. Hold music has the benefit of easing your customer’s frustration while also making their wait-time seem shorter. Pick hold music that reflects your brand and is relatable to your customers. Also, make sure to update your music regularly. If Top-40 music is appropriate for your business, be aware that you cannot hook your phone system up to a radio, or streaming music service, and call it a day. You will be required to comply with ASCAP regulations and possibly pay licensing fees. Alternatively, your phone system may come with pre-programmed hold music, however, music that is too simple and generic may not be engaging enough to keep your customers on the line.
Messages on Hold
Messages on hold offer you an opportunity to educate new and existing customers about products, services, and specials. Surveys have shown that 88% of callers prefer messages on hold to any other hold option, with 16–20% of those callers making a purchase based on the messages they heard. Utilizing hold messages can be appropriate for any business that provides goods or services to customers at their home or business, in-store, through phone orders, or online. Retail businesses and restaurants, in particular, can benefit from messages on hold. You can arrange to have custom messages on hold created for your business through your phone system provider.
What not to do
Having a hold strategy is important for your business, but a surprising number of businesses place their customers on hold to complete silence. According to recent surveys, 55% of callers placed on silent hold hung up. You should also avoid using the ubiquitous “your call is important to us” message. This runs the risk of making you sound disingenuous, especially if customers experience long hold times when they call your business. Finally, don’t interrupt your music on hold with messages. If you wish to use a combination of message and music, make sure your messages come in during a transition.
Remember, being kept on hold is an annoying inconvenience for customers. Whether you need to look up information related to their account, toggle between another call, or transfer them to another party, try to keep their time on hold as brief and productive as possible.