Is leaving customers on hold costing you business?

Long on hold time

There’s a pet peeve that all of us can claim to share. It’s not video streaming problems, potholes, or burnt toast – it’s as simple as being left on hold while listening to the phrase “your call is important to us”. Poor customer service and being put on hold is one of the biggest bugbears of the British public – and it could be costing you important business.

Customers on hold will, on average, hang up after reaching a boiling point of thirteen minutes. After that, there’s a good chance they’ll ditch your business for your competitor. Let’s crunch the numbers on the potential risks of leaving your customers on hold for too long:

  • Price is not the main reason customers switch to different companies. It’s mainly due to the poor quality of customer service. In fact, customers are four times more likely to switch as a result of poor customer service than because of anything price or product related.
  • For every customer complaint you get, there are on average twenty-six other unhappy customers. The vast majority will never make a complaint – they’ll simply leave and never come back.
  • Most of a customer’s buying experiences are based on how they believe they’ve been treated and how valued they feel.
  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between nine and twenty people about their negative experience.
  • It costs a business six to seven times more money to get new customers than to keep existing ones. A business is sixty to seventy percent more likely to sell to an existing customer.

As you can see, attracting new customers to replace the old is expensive and time-consuming.

Of course, it’s inevitable that you will have to put customers on hold from time to time – you might have to take a look at files to answer questions, you might have to check details with another member of staff, or just perform basic troubleshooting procedures – but there are things you can do to improve your service and prevent people from switching to other businesses. Customer expectations aren’t very high, so there are plenty of ways to deal with putting someone on hold without frustrating them.

Most customers will sit on hold for twenty seconds before starting to get annoyed. You’ve got twelve minutes after that before they start screaming and slamming the phone down. If you manage the process well, you can get customers to wait patiently for your assistance.

Handling the situation properly makes all the difference between losing a customer and keeping them. Tell the customer they’re being put on hold, and talk through the process with them. Be honest! Explain why you have to put them on hold this time, ask their permission to do so, and tell them you’ll be back within a reasonable amount of time – and remember to stick to it!

While your customer is on hold, keep them entertained. There’s nothing more annoying than being blasted with an electronic version of Ode to Joy, interrupted every 20 seconds by a computer voice reminding them of how important their call is. Use soft, soothing music to keep them calm and patient. Only reassure them they’re still on hold and of how much longer they have to wait occasionally – too much repetition can be irritating.

Your business might want to use ‘social proof messaging’ as an aid to your customer service. This lets the customer you have on hold know that your high call volume is due to a specific reason (not, though, that there are a lot of people waiting to give you a piece of their mind!). Communicate to your customers that you are experiencing a high amount of calls because your business is very popular, or that it’s a time of year where you’re especially busy. Again, when you invest time and energy in dealing with calls correctly, it will keep your customers happy.

If you have to put a customer on hold for longer than a minute or two, calling them back is a good alternative to keeping them waiting, and it tells them that you’re invested in looking after their needs. Ask them when would be a convenient time to contact them once you’ve found what they need, and make sure that you follow-up at the time you’ve promised.

Putting customers on hold will be a part of your business from time to time, but keeping those customers happy will save you vast amounts of time and money in the future. It doesn’t take much to stop customers getting frustrated. If putting them on hold for long periods of time is a problem dogging your business and you don’t know how to solve it, Virtual VIP could be the ideal solution to your problem. Click here for more information.