How do you handle wait times for customers on the phone? Many businesses and organizations simply place the caller on hold when the person they’re trying to reach isn’t available right away, when it will take a few minutes to pull up information or find answers to caller questions, or when there are lots of simultaneous calls coming in. New research shows that putting customers on hold may be a mistake if the hold time is more than a few minutes.
Customers prefer a callback, or receiving a call back from the company once someone is available, instead of waiting on hold. In the study cited, 63% – nearly two-thirds – of customers said they’d rather get a callback than wait on hold.
Why do customers prefer a callback?
Why might this be? When a customer has to wait on hold, they can’t divert their attention from the phone. It traps them in time, making seconds seem like minutes and minutes like hours. Any second, someone could pick up and resume the conversation. It’s an uneasy phone purgatory for customers.
But being able to put down the phone and know that they’ll get a callback from your company makes the situation much more pleasant. That seems to be why so many customers prefer a callback – it allows them to pause the conversation, get back to their lives and obligations for a minute, and resume the call when someone is available to help.
Question two on the survey above asked customers about how long they typically wait on hold before they prefer a callback. A majority of the participants stated they’d prefer a callback after waiting 1 to 5 minutes on hold. More than 25% said they’d always prefer a callback to waiting on hold, no matter the waiting time.
As you can see, the number of customers willing to wait on hold dwindles as the hold time increases. The longer you expect to have a caller wait on hold, the more likely you should offer to do a callback instead. Chances are, they’ll appreciate it and consider it a more positive customer service experience.
Make the callback an alternative to holding
While more customers seem to prefer a callback, you can ensure you’re not stepping on any toes by offering a callback as an optional courtesy rather than making it policy. Make the callback an alternative to holding, and your customers will appreciate your flexibility. They will see it as a company going above and beyond to ensure their customers are satisfied, and that helps create a great reputation for your business.
Here are a few examples of ways to present the callback as an alternative to waiting on hold:
- “I need put you on hold for just a few minutes while I track him down. Would you prefer receiving a callback when Dave is available?”
- “It should take about 5 minutes to input this information – would you prefer waiting on hold or receiving a callback?”
- “I can either place you on hold for a moment or give you a callback within 10 minutes, which would you prefer?”
Customers prefer a callback to being put on hold, but that doesn’t mean that putting customers on hold is obsolete just yet. As long as the expected wait time is less than 5 minutes, most customers don’t mind waiting on hold (as long as you play some hold music or special promotions for them to listen to). If the wait will be any longer than that, however, it’s probably best to offer the callback option.