6 Solid Tips to Reduce Hold Time and Increase Profits

Here is part two of my mini series on hold times (a follow up to Tom’s post on the subject). Six simple tips and steps to improve your hold times, and subsequently, your customer retention and profits.

Analyze your calls.
How much of a call is spent doing X? Try and cut down on call time without jeopardizing quality (it’s possible). Some obvious things that can usually be cut down are:

  • Repeating information (use ticket/case numbers!)
  • Unnecessary transfers (use operators and/or simple menus)
  • Account verification (have passwords and/or pre-authenticate using your IVR system)

Break the call down into sections and find out what’s taking long and how you can make it faster. You’ll also notice all of the above mentioned things not only make the call go faster, but improve the experience from both a customer and employee perspective.

Hire more people.
This is obvious. Call centers are expensive. Customer service is expensive. Losing customer is even more expensive. Hire enough people to cut down your hold times to at least an industry standard level. (For some industries, the standard is 30 seconds, for others, it’s 20 minutes.)

Hire better people.
If you can’t afford to hire more people, hire better people. Hiring better people and spending more on their training is a good way to spend money. As Tom points out, customers are more forgiving of long hold times if the customer service is good.

Get rid of transfers.
I get very angry when I wait on hold for 20 minutes and then find out that I have to be transferred to someone else. It’s incredibly frustrating for the customer. It also costs the company easy to measure, “hard” money (waste a representative’s and phone minutes) as well as “soft”, harder to measure money (customer gets frustrated, some leave, etc.). Improve your phone systems, use intelligent operators, do something.

Use hold music.
While it may help your abandonment rates, use hold music that customers can hear. One company I had to call had their hold music cut out after three minutes. Every time I call them, I wait more than three minutes. Companies need consistent (not necessarily loud) that can easily be hard on both land lines and cellphones. It should loop indefinitely and never stop. If it stops, customers will hang up. And when they do hang up, they’ll be really mad.

Ask your customers.
As Tom suggests, ask your customers what amount of hold time is acceptable to them. Some may not mind waiting for 5 or 10 minutes, others will mind. You have nothing to lose by asking your customers. You may find out that a vast majority of your customers find 15 minutes acceptable. If they do, you can work accordingly. If they don’t, you need to make changes.

Now, you need to wait 24 hours for another post. Or, if you are instant gratification type, you can check out the archives. By the time you are done reading every single post, I bet it’ll be tomorrow.

3 Responses to “6 Solid Tips to Reduce Hold Time and Increase Profits”

  1. Meikah Delid said:

    Apr 25, 07 at 3:14 am

    Good points, Doug! I wonder if the gethuman project will work well in call centers. What do think?

  2. Custserv » Customer Service Blogs Round-up - The New Competitive Edge said:

    Apr 25, 07 at 3:24 am

    […] Then Service Untitled expounds on Tom’s improving QA elements by putting out six solid tips to reduce hold time and increase profits: analyze your calls, hire more people, hire better people, get rid of transfers, use hold music, ask your customers. Now, I wonder if the gethuman project will work in call centers. […]

  3. Service Untitled said:

    Apr 25, 07 at 10:12 am

    Hi Meikah,

    What do you mean? Do you mean that a system where it would be easy to reach a human would work well in call centers? Not following fully.