8 Tips for Putting a Customer on Hold and How to Avoid It
No one wants to wait on hold because it makes people feel like the person that put them on hold isn’t that interested in their business and doesn’t value their time. Whenever possible, you should avoid putting someone on hold. But, sometimes, it is necessary.
There are ways to minimize the impact of putting a customer on hold and ways to re-double your efforts to avoid having to put customers on hold at all. We’ll outline tips for both below.
1. Ask for Permission
Telling someone that you have to put them on hold can seem abrupt and rude. Instead, make it a policy to ask customers if you can put them on hold. Very few people will say no. And by agreeing, they will feel that they chose to go on hold to help you and will have a more positive outlook on their wait time.
2. Set a Reasonable Timeline
It can also help reassure people to give them a timeline for their hold if you can guarantee it. Even fewer people will turn down a quick one- or two-minute hold. And if you can return to the hold before your time is up, then the person will have an even more positive impression of your customer service.
What if you have to put a customer on hold for five minutes or more? Or, what if they say that they don’t want to go on hold when you ask? Then ask if you can call them back instead. You’ll get valuable contact information if this is a new client and demonstrate that you still care about their business. Professionalism and discretion are key, because some customers will move on if they’re asked to call back, so it’s important for your incoming call receptionist or call answering service to have that kind of discretion.
3. Be Sure to Apologize
Don’t act like putting people on hold is reasonable, even if you have to do it all of the time. Apologize for having to put someone on hold, and you’ll help them feel like you care about their time and their experience with your company.
4. Use Music
It’s not that people enjoy the music they hear on hold per se, but research demonstrates that people will stay on the hold longer when there is music. It reassures them that they are actually still on hold without having to look at the phone.
Choose music that is mainstream, child friendly, and not too loud to make customers more comfortable and allow them to put it on speaker if their kids are in the room. It also helps if the music doesn’t loop too quickly or too often, since that can be potentially alienating to your callers.
5. Return and Apologize
Return to the call within the timeframe that you set out for the customer and apologize again for their wait. This helps change their mood so that they can move forward with the rest of the call more positively.
6. Hire More People for Calls
Now, how do you avoid putting people on hold? The top reason to put people on hold is that you have another call coming in. Hiring and training another person to take calls can solve this problem. Or you can work with a virtual assistant company that has plenty of people available to take your calls so that your customers are never on hold. Integrating a call-forwarding system can make sure that each call is answered in a reasonable amount of time by backup staff if your front-of-line staff is busy.
7. Better Trained Staff
Sometimes staff put customers on call because they don’t know the answer to the customer’s question. Better training your staff will help avoid this problem.
8. Use online appointment scheduling and chat widgets
Another way to avoid putting a customer on hold is to avoid answering calls to begin with. After all, not every customer actually wants to have a phone call with a live person.
There are so many online appointment scheduling tools and chat widgets to choose from, and many customers are actually more receptive to using those options. These tools can help take the weight off of your call answering staff so everyone involved has more bandwidth.
Of course, the effectiveness of these tools depends on your market and small business needs. In some cases, a live operator may be necessary to help customers understand their needs and communicate with dispatch in a short time frame. So experiment, track the results, and be prepared to make changes on short notice.
There Are So Many Reasons Not to Put Customers on Hold
According to Conversational, the average caller will hang up after 1 minute and 55 seconds of hold time. And 34% of callers who hang up won’t call back. It’s even worse if you send callers to voicemail, and it’s even more true for home service industries, where issues tend to be time-sensitive and there are other companies you can call.
Putting a customer on hold isn’t just inconsiderate–it’s a great way to lose business. Avoid it wherever you can, and take steps to mitigate the damage.
If you think you might be putting too many callers on hold, the best option is to hire our live answering service to professionally answer the phones for you. Unlike large call-center services, Front Office Solutions uses a small, US-based phone answering staff backed by custom services to support your business on your terms. Every word of their interactions, from the initial greeting to the call handling, forwarding, and messaging, can be completely customized to reflect your brand and business priorities. Our live answering service is great for overflow calls, after hours calls, or all of your inbound calls, allowing you to operate with a smaller back office.
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