Competitive markets don’t allow for long hold times.

I read this post on QAQNA this morning about hold times. The question that Tom poses is “will being on hold too long make you change providers?” His points are right on:

  • Some customers have no choice.
  • Others are willing to have higher hold times if the actual customer service provided is good.
  • You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Regarding hold times, I’ve gotten spoiled. I remember the days not too long ago when you called Dell, had to wait on hold for an hour, and then got to a person. The person wasn’t that bad, but having to wait on hold for hours or more was terrible.

Now I call companies and find myself incredibly frustrated if I wait more than 10 minutes. I want to be connected to a human instantly. Sixty seconds is acceptable, but not good. Two to three minutes isn’t ideal, but tolerable. See my point? When I, like most other consumers have choices, I get spoiled.

  • I can buy my computer from anyone – Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Sony, Apple. Why wait on hold for two hours with Dell if I can get to a human in 30 seconds at Dell?
  • I can get my cellphone from anyone – Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Cingular. Why should I wait for ten minutes with Verizon if I can get to T-Mobile in 15 seconds?
  • I can buy my books from anyone – Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Amazon.com. Why should I have to wait 5 minutes to talk to a human or a store at Borders when I go to Amazon.com and find the book right away?

Remember, hold times aren’t limited to just phone interactions. Retail companies make customers wait all the time. I can buy a shirt at Macy’s and no one will help me (or I have to wait for someone to help me) or I can go to Nordstrom and get better customer service. Same product, essentially the same price. I don’t want to wait for someone to check me out at Radio Shack when I can go to the drug store and get the same batteries.

Take it a step further. I can use Facebook because it’s faster and more reliable than MySpace. I can use Google because it’s faster than MSN. Consumers are very spoiled when it comes to getting what they want in a very short amount of time. It may be software help, cellphone questions, batteries, or web searches.

Other companies, as Tom points out make it so the customers have no choice. Companies that are corporate suppliers, “lock in” companies (like cellphone providers), government organizations, utility companies, and companies that have (near) monopolies (i. e. Microsoft) don’t worry so much about your hold time. Quite frankly, how happy you are is not a relevant concern to those types of companies.

If you are like a majority of companies and do have competition, you probably want to know how to reduce your hold times. No fear, I have another post planned for tomorrow with six simple tips on how to reduce hold time and improve profits.