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Making more of callers’ time on hold

Posted by Olivia Howlett - Head of Audio Branding at PHMG on

Following a successful marketing campaign, callers can be like buses. You’ve waited for one, and now three have come along at once. Getting to your callers quickly is your first priority, yet placing them on hold can be inevitable. Here’s how you can use this time to its best advantage.

It’s said 94% of a budget is invested in getting customers to call, but only 6% is used to maintain that call. Don’t believe it? In the recent programme, ‘Richard Wilson On Hold’, a team of volunteers dialled the nation’s call centres to find out how long it took to get through. Some were connected in minutes, but some calls ran to more than half an hour, with one in particular to an hour. There was actual astonishment when it took just 40 seconds to get through to one bank’s call centre.

It’s a trend backed by PH Media Group’s ICM research, which highlighted that over 70% of people are put on hold during more than half their calls to businesses, and that 68% of these are put on hold for longer than one minute.

So what do callers hear while they’re waiting?

Telecoms companies often provide businesses with a standard and often simplistic service with a generic “we’ll be just a moment” message which tells callers they’re “valued customers”. The problem is that while yes, it’s rather nice of you to thank somebody for holding every twenty seconds, after five minutes it just stops being believable. After 10 minutes it becomes a downright lie. It can make for angry customers, who in the best-case scenario might have a shout about it… and in the worst-case scenario might hang up and call elsewhere.

Just think: you could be using this time so much more effectively – and promoting your brand in a far more positive light. An apology for the wait is polite every now and then… and yet you could be telling your customers so much more.  Because what you have here is a captive audience, ready and attentively waiting for your call handlers to say hello.

While they’re listening so closely, they’re in the best place to hear all about your products and services. Informative messages on hold work just like the film trailers at the cinema – your customers are waiting for the big event and they’re not going anywhere. Play them something interesting in the interim to tantalise their taste buds (and say more than sorry) and you might even make a sale. Just remember that the analogy doesn’t extend to you asking callers to turn off their phones.

It’s also about adding value to the call. To be helpful and understanding, you could also inform callers of other ways they can access your information. Tell them about your website and the products and services they can browse or buy, 24 hours a day. In turn, you cut call waiting times and drive more traffic online.

So, if you have to put your customers on hold – and in all probability this will happen – remember that it’s always worthwhile telling them something useful while they’re there.

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