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how long is too long blog 1Last week I called a financial institutional and ended up in their contact centre queue. I got the shock of my life when the IVR indicated that I had an anticipated 28 minute wait on hold before being able to talk to someone!
Were they seriously asking me to wait that long? Would they wait 28 mins if they were a customer? I really don’t think so! With no call back option, I simply hung up and laughed to myself how I wasn’t even an existing customer & how upset I would be if I were.

This incident got me thinking about the concept of “How long is too long to be on hold”?

It doesn’t matter where you are in the age/life cycle, we are all busy people and the last thing we want to do is waste our precious time on hold. As a consumer, I feel that waiting on hold for 5 minutes is not great but “OK”; waiting 10 minutes and you are reaching the extent of my patience; and longer than 10 minutes on hold you are turning me into a dissatisfied and disgruntled customer at best.

So why do so many companies persistently deliver such poor customer experience? Is it simply poor workforce planning, lack of technologically applications or just not enough money to do anything?

Whilst there are many self-service channels available, reports by Gartner and Forrester estimate that 40% of your customers will go straight to their phone and call you. Of the 60% of customers that attempt self-service, only 20% will succeed. This group has a far greater propensity for exponential growth in their dissatisfaction due to them having already invested more of their time trying to resolve their issues prior to calling you. All up, it is estimated that approximately 85% of all your customers will end up in your contact centre!

As consumers, we expect companies to deliver an effortless customer experience on any channel or hour of the day we choose. I know we are a demanding bunch but if companies want our money then they need to provide a service that is in line with our expectations.

Here are some of the potential options:
  1. Call backs: these are great as they get the customer off the phone and they feel like they got a win. The idea that my place in the line has been saved (not that everyone actually believes this!) and I can now do other more meaningful things in the interim makes me happy. Take it a step further and allow me the option to provide you with a day and time to return my call is awesome – this way I get the call at a time that works for me and not one that only works for you!
  2. Workforce Planning: if people have to wait so long there is obviously an issue - analysis of your busiest times may require revisions to you rostering
  3. BPO: If you don’t have the staff, consider sending your overflow calls to a business process outsourcer
  4. Technology: Invest in technologies that allow for better customer omnichannel usability that results in a more seamless & effortless customer experience through the connectivity of contextual data allowing for a richer interaction with customers regardless which touch point they use

At the end of the day, my time is extremely precious and asking me to waste that time on hold is not going to win me over as a satisfied customer.

So how long are you willing to wait? What are the KPIs that you are working towards? Please share your thoughts and stories.

By Graeme Gilovitz