Resources Library Hold Time

According to Forrester Research, approximately 73% of customers believe that valuing their time is the most important thing that a company can do to provide them with good service. In the era of convenience and self-service, there’s a high likelihood that the customer who calls your helpline has already tried to solve their issue using the FAQs on your website or other sources. This means that by the time they reach your agent,

  • They’re already frustrated and/or
  • Their issue is complex and may require the agent to collaborate with another (or verify details while the customer waits on the line)

A phone conversation then becomes an escalation channel and customers expect frictionless, quick resolution. Although it may not be possible to circumvent hold time entirely, it is possible to make your customer’s experience as smooth as possible and ensure that they don’t dread calling your helpline in future. You could (and perhaps you already do) play hold music or pre-recorded messages for them. If you have multiple phone lines for each business, you can tailor their experience by adding a different sound track for each number that you own on Freshcaller. Here's a quick guide to this simple process.

Choosing the right hold music, however, is an often overlooked aspect of customer service. Let’s assume that you operate a travel agency with agents handling hundreds of calls about bookings, payment issues, and complex routing changes.

10 customer calls (per hour) x hold-time of 20 sec. (per call)= 200 sec. of hold-time (per hour)
With a standard 9-hour call center (8am to 5pm) 7 days a week, your customers are on hold for (200 x 9 x 7) /60 = 210 min. (in total) per week.

That’s 210 minutes of “airtime” in which your customers interact with your brand. Instead of playing classical piano music or a once-popular song from the 90’s, consider making the wait time more bearable for your customers. While setting up hold music, you could:

Personalize the customer’s experience

Instead of populating every helpline with the same message or music, you could craft an appropriate message for each one. For example, if you have one number for agent-assisted flight bookings, you could play a message about popular destinations and ongoing deals for the customers on hold. If you have another number for routing changes, your message could request the customer to be prepared with their order number and payment information. Alternatively, you could answer common FAQs during the wait. For example, “Is there an additional fee to change my flight tickets?”

Reward them for waiting

A sincere and empathetic “thank-you for waiting” greeting from an agent can mollify a number of irate customers. But, you could appease the customer before they reach your agent by offering a small discount or reward for waiting on the line. For instance, a travel agency could provide a $5 discount if the customer answers a short survey about favourite travel destinations or preferred hotels while waiting for the agent. Offer relevance and context are critical. If a reward applies to a niche audience, customers may feel bombarded with unnecessary ads. Similarly, customers waiting on the line for critical issues, such as refunds or payments, may not be receptive to advertisements from your business.

Entertain the customer

Some utilities providers and grocery brands employ a “no hard sells for customers in queue” approach. They opt to lighten the mood by playing unrelated how-to’s (“How to make a great Caesar salad!”) or comedic segments for their audience.

Freschaller Finding: A prominent player in the travel industry had 15 days (360 hours!) of total hold-time across all customers in a 30 day period. That’s 360 hours of opportunities to create a stronger bond with the customer and portray the brand positively!

Depending on your brand identity, you can create an appropriate hold track or message. One important consideration is to value the customer’s time and minimize the minutes they spend on hold. For instance, many businesses offer callback services to customers, reflecting an industry trend towards reducing customer “work.” Using this option, customers can click a particular key to receive a callback from an agent instead of waiting on the line for an agent to attend the call.