Shreveport, LA (PressExposure) December 17, 2012 -- Call it another source of holiday stress: long lines at the mall and, increasingly, long wait times on the telephone. As holiday shoppers swamp customer support lines with calls, many find themselves spending more time on hold waiting for help. And a leading customer service expert warns that many companies don't have a plan in place to handle these long telephone wait times.
Industry data shows that customers spend an average of 55 seconds on hold when calling American companies. "And that's during normal periods," says Bryant Wilson, CEO of On Hold Company,"During the holidays that time can increase significantly."
"Call volume can be hard to predict, especially during the Christmas season," says Wilson, "So some wait time is to be expected. The key is how companies handle that time."
The first step, according to Wilson, is for companies to set expectations. If consumers are told how long they will have to wait, he says, they're more willing to be patient.
"And if they know the wait time is too long, they have the option to hang up and call again later," he says. "It's being respectful of your customers' time."
Second, Wilson says that companies need to keep callers occupied. Wilson cites psychological studies showing that people's perception of wait times is shorter when they have something to keep them occupied.
"That's why on-hold music and messages are so effective," says Wilson.
According to Wilson, data shows that callers who hear on-hold music stay on the line for an average of 30 seconds longer than callers who experience silence during their wait. Callers who hear on-hold messages stay on the line for up to 3 minutes longer.
The third step, says Wilson, is to meet or exceed the expectations you set.
"If a caller is told to expect a five minute wait, and someone picks up the line after two minutes, that's a positive experience," says Wilson. "But don't let a five minute forecast turn into a ten minute wait!"
Wilson says that it's vital for companies to recognize the value of the caller's time. A 2011 survey asking consumers why wait times are "not reasonable" found that almost a third of respondents thought companies didn't care about their time.
"If having happy, loyal customers is your goal, that statistic should give you pause," says Wilson.