Imagine that you are one of your busy customers. It’s been a long day. You have been in and out of long meetings, handling e-mails that are swarming your inbox, and putting out fire after fire while you work through your lunch. There is one more telephone call you need to make. After dialing and you hear two rings followed by a representative saying, “Thank you for calling, please hold.”
According to Woman’s World Magazine, the average person spends about 1.2 years on hold.
Did your skin just crawl? Mine did. That could be the first impression that caller has of your business. Bringing back the old customary standards that we once took for granted may be just what you need to add that extra touch of humanity to your client’s on hold experience. So I say start by taking a look at your Hold Procedures! If you have never addressed them, now’s the time to start.
In my experience, most businesses no longer train their staff on hold etiquette; assuming these are common sense skills that all new hires should know. Trust me – they don’t.
The Ultimate Guide — 3 Best Practices for Putting the Client on Hold
STEP ONE: Remember who holds the power.
Consider this; when a customer calls your business they hold all the power and control. They alone decide whether your company will profit from their business…and believe me they want you to fight for it and earn it. Yet even though they hold all this power, each time you put them on hold you are essentially demanding that they give you a sacrifice…of their valuable time.
Your hold tactic is essentially a power play of sorts when you think about it. Subconsciously many clients immediately sense this power shift and put their walls up. (Have you ever noticed that sometimes clients seem really agitated when you come back to them after a period of hold time?)
Train your staff to respect that the client holds the power and that their time is a valuable sacrifice that you have not yet earned. Each client should be treated as though they were delivering the employee’s annual review. I expect my employees to regard my clients with the same level of esteem as they do for me.
STEP TWO: Use those manners your elders taught you.
Make it a point to never put someone on hold without first asking their permission and explaining the reason for the wait. Which sounds better?
“Hold please” or “Mr. Smith, I need a moment to look up your records. Would you mind holding while I find them please?” I guarantee that your customers would choose the second option.
Approximately 8 to 15% of a company’s customer base is lost each year. Of this, 68% is due to indifferent or negative phone treatment.
– Oren Harari of The Tom Peters Group
If you need to keep a customer on hold for more than a minute at a time, come back to check on them. During this checking back period make sure to apologize for the wait, and offer them an option to get out of holding. Remember their time is as valuable to them as yours is to you. “Mr. Smith, I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I am having a bit if difficulty locating your records. It may be a few more minutes. Would you be ok holding or would you prefer a call back?” If they choose to hold, continue to check back with them often asking the same question if you need to return them to holding.
Don’t forget when returning to the call to thank them for holding. “Mr. Smith, thank you for holding. I was able to find your records…”
STEP THREE: Benefit from technology.
Yes I realize that everything I have mentioned has broken away from technology to bring back humanity into our customer service practices for clients on hold… the fact of the matter is when used correctly, technology can actually enhance the client’s overall hold experience and make them feel empowered and appreciated.
I started out this long article with an example where the caller was immediately placed on hold. I’m sure they were told they had to answer the call within a certain amount of seconds while still feeling the stress of handling the demands of the client that is across from them at the front counter they were probably also told they should not ignore. Prioritizing this can be a nightmare for the average staff member.
Rather than picking up a call and immediately putting them on hold as in the example provided, consider call queuing. Call queuing will play music and/or a message for callers while they wait in “line” for someone to answer the call. This allows you to offer great customer service to one customer at a time during your peak times. This also reduces abandoned calls, eliminates the need for excess staff to handle fluctuating peak call volumes, and the need for extra telephone lines.
If you have ever been on hold without music playing for more than a minute, how many times did you look at your phone to check to see if the call was still connected? Keep in mind that a 30 second wait on hold to a client without hold music feels like 90 seconds because with music playing, the same 30 seconds feels like 15 seconds.
As a bonus – providing music to clients on hold can help to ease some tension and if the same music is used as in your location’s lobby, you can also extend the consistency of your brand!
MESSAGE ON HOLD
Even with music playing to break up the silence, your client and your business can both benefit from Message on Hold (MOH) which offers a voice during that lonely hold time. At regular intervals your caller is “reawakened” and educated by a voice that announces current promotions, product highlights, or a reminder to buy that amazing one-size-fits-all gift card that is just perfect for every occasion!
According to Sales & Marketing Management, 88% of callers actually want to hear product information on hold and 20% admitted to purchasing more products based on promotions heard while on hold.
Tie National, LLC put together their Sound Suite portal to give business on-demand access to control both their background music and message on hold. This portal allows businesses the ability to schedule unlimited changes to their messages or music to match the fluctuating needs of their market. (For an inside look watch the YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3MX9FiZTrQ)
Survey your own customers to find out what they want from you to enhance their hold experience. I’d love to hear any other suggestions you may have on how to improve the client’s hold experience!