Is On Hold Messaging Really Good Customer Service?

In a previous corporate life in Information Technology (IT), I worked part-time in the computer support service center answering phone calls.  We had stat-of-the-art equipment and could see people in the queue and how long they had been waiting.  So when I recently called a customer support center about a problem I was having placing an order on their website, I was pleasantly surprised that not only did I get the “All representatives are busy at this time.  You call is important to us.  Please hold for the next available representative.” I was also told my approximate hold time of two minutes and one second.

Ok, I could wait 2 minutes to give them my money for their product.  However, about 2 minutes later, I got the above message repeated to me including being quoted the exact same wait time!  After 2 minutes more, I got another messages only this time my wait time was quoted as “less than one minute”.  2 minutes later, I got the 2 minute message again.  I have now been waiting over 8 minutes.  Can you guess what happened next?

After another 2 minutes, I received the busy representative message again but this time my wait time was quoted as NONE.  Well, this made me expect to have a representative pick-up almost immediately.  However, I did not talk to a person until after 4 intervals of being told NONE.  When I told the nice representative my problem, she solved it in less than 2 minutes to my satisfaction - even though I had to be put on hold for part of that time while my account was reviewed.  My total time spent for this short conversation to give them my money was over 18 minutes!

What if it had been an angry customer instead of a calm spender waiting on the phone?  The above would have made me angrier and I would have lambasted that anger onto the representative with something like “Finally someone over there picked-up!  Do you know how long I have been waiting?” followed by or proceeded with some not so nice language.  Of course the angry customer might have hung up, but not very likely if their anger continued to grow and they had already invested so much of their time.

I know it was years ago when I was on a help desk, but I would think the call queue system would be better not worse.  Could they not see how long I had been in the queue?  What were they doing?  Really helping other customers, having a team meeting, or taking a break? 

Any ideas on how the customer service via call centers could be improved? Let me know your thought via comments on this post.  To see my last rant about bad customer service, visit the blog post Correct Change - Bad Math or Thoughtless Customer Service.

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Hey Shirley Great Post!

The answer is a resounding "yes"! On hold messaging is good customer service, but only when done right.

Jefferson Denneandrus, a research firm, found when callers were presented with On Hold Messaging versus silence or a radio they would stay on hold 3 times longer, they were more likely to exhibit interest in the product advertised, they were more likely to retain information, and the "biggie" they were less agitated!

I do not think an estimated hold time should be told to the caller, as if the company falls short of meeting that goal -- the caller is going to be frustrated.

Which an angry caller is already bad enough, but you certainly don't want to rub salt in the wound, and make an already irritated caller even more annoyed.