When it’s necessary to put a caller on hold, using proper phone etiquette is essential. That’s because “on hold” is not a place callers like to be – in fact, a survey by AT&T showed that most callers hang up after an average of 1 minute and 55 seconds of being on hold.
Further more, 34% of callers who hang up after being on hold too long will never call back.
If you thought that putting a caller on hold was a pretty straightforward customer service scenario, think again. There is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.
The proper etiquette for putting a caller on hold
Across all industries, the average hold time is about 38 seconds. If you want to ensure your customer service is viewed as better than average, you’ve got to improve on that number.
Playing hold music for callers is a smart way to make time on hold more enjoyable and pleasant for your callers. The AT&T study mentioned above found that customers who are put on hold for 30 seconds perceived that they were on hold for 90 seconds, but callers who listened to music while on hold thought a 30 second wait was only 15 seconds.
But playing hold music isn’t your only option when putting a caller on hold. In a study looking at purchase probability among callers, it was determined that around 88% of callers prefer recorded messages including promotions and specials over other hold options (music or silence). The same study found that 20% of callers said they’ve made a purchase based on a promo they heard while on hold.
But what about scenarios where it’s impossible to keep hold time short enough to satisfy your caller? You still have a few options that will please the caller.
- Take the caller’s name and phone number and call back as soon as possible
- Tell the caller how long you expect the hold time to be
- Play music or promotion recordings for the caller to listen to on hold
How to put a caller on hold
If you need to put a caller on hold, follow these steps to avoid frustrating the caller or losing a lead.
1. Greet the caller as you normally would. “Thank you for calling Conversational, this is Jane. How may I help you?”
2. Listen to their request, paraphrase it, and tell them you’ll need to place them on hold momentarily. Use the caller’s name to start building a connection. “Okay Ron, so it sounds like you’re having trouble logging into your client account. We can get that sorted out right away. First, I’ll need to put you on hold for just a moment while I pull up your information.”
3. Work quickly while the caller is on hold. Remember, callers on hold can get frustrated and hang up well before the 2 minute mark.
4. When you return to the call, you have two options: 1) Thank the caller for their patience while holding or 2) Apologize for the inconvenience of being put on hold and thank them for their patience. Either one will be considered polite and professional. The second option is especially appropriate if the caller was on hold for longer than average or if the wait was extended unexpectedly.