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Being Put on Hold is Linked to Bad Customer Service

Posted by Clarissa Gotsch on Feb 06, 2018

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Why Being Put On Hold Frustrates Customers

In 1962, New York businessman Albert Levy patented a concept that would turn out to be as frustrating as it was useful. He came up with the "telephone hold program system," or what we know today as being "put on hold". The idea started as a way for companies to deal with a large number of incoming calls without missing any, and eliminating the need for a call back. 

However, Levy could not know the inevitable psychological effects of his invention, and how much  frustration it would bring to people around the world in the years to come. The recorded messages and musical soundtracks that were played while callers were waiting, were intended to reassure and relax listeners. They might have seemed novel when they were first introduced, however, nowadays they are more just an annoyance. Research shows that people in the U.S. are put on hold 86 percent of the time they make calls to businesses, and 71 percent of people say they're irritated with being put on hold. 

What Makes It so Frustrating?

According to a study by the University of Memphis, being put on hold by a business has multiple psychological effects on callers, and it affects their opinion regarding the quality of a company and its service. Although the automated message is intended to reassure customers of their importance to the company, a recorded message is not as effective as an interaction with another person. 

Not only do people respond better to waiting when they have chosen to do so, but also when they are waiting for something enjoyable. Being put on hold makes customers feel like their time isn't respected. Customers are taking the time out of their day to make that phone call to reach out to your company, and putting them on hold is taking away from their valuable time. 

How to Improve the Customer Experience

Companies could combat this problem by improving the experience of being on hold. People don't like not knowing how long they will have to wait on the phone. So, providing a system that has updates on how long, can improve their experience. Also, a better selection of music, tailored to the tastes of the typical customer, can also help reduce frustration.

Finally, companies could introduce a callback system whereby callers can leave their number and receive a call back later, so it is more convenient for customers. That allows the customer to continue about their day rather than wasting time waiting on the phone. 

By improving the customer service experience, customer retention rates will increase, no matter the industry you're in, be it mortgage, insurance, or any type of company.

When it comes to customer service facts, one of the obvious ones should be that no one likes to be put on hold. The ultimate goal of companies should be to improve customer service, because having happier customers equals a more successful company. Without customers, your business could not survive. 


Sources:

http://nowiknow.com/the-history-of-being-on-hold/

https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/apr/25/on-hold-hell-why-automated-phone-systems-are-infuriating

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6793(199907)16:4%3C327::AID-MAR4%3E3.0.CO;2-G/pdf

http://business.time.com/2013/01/24/you-probably-spent-13-hours-on-hold-last-year/

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Topics: customer service

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