How to Put BAD Customer Service On Hold

I’m sure you’ve had this happen: You call a company and reach an automated phone tree with prompt after prompt to answer. You finally get connected to a human only to hear, “Thanks for calling XYZ Company. Can you hold?” And before you get a chance to answer, you’re on hold.  Immediately, you’re now frustrated. All you want is for some human, any human, to resolve your problem. But now you have to hold for who knows how long. And to top it off, you have 10 minutes left of your lunch hour. Ugh!

Real World Story: The other day, I called a travel company that a client had recommended. Having trouble with the online process, I had to call the travel company. As many of you have experienced when calling a company, I was naturally skeptical, hesitant and ready to be treated badly—expecting for this process to take the rest of the afternoon.

HOWEVER, Anthony, the customer service agent who answered the phone, was extremely helpful and professional. give-customers-a-voiceAnd that’s not all! When he put me on hold, he said, “May I put you on hold for 2 minutes while I check with my manager about your reservation?” Did you catch it? He actually let me know it would take 2 minutes. Compare this to “Can you hold” or “Please hold for a second” or “Hold for a moment.” It’s never a second and how long is a moment? To me, a moment is 30 seconds or less. How long is it for you?

The key to success here is what I’ve said in past blog posts: the number one reason for a complaint is an unmet expectation. So, when you communicate a clear expectation—like please hold for 2 minutes—and come back to the customer within or in less time, the customer is delighted, instead of infuriated.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. When you put a customer can hold, wait for an answer!
  2. When you put a customer on hold for a longer period of time, give them an estimate of the wait and give them the option for you to call them back. “May I place you on hold while I check with the billing department about your account? or “Would you like for me to call you back when I have the answer—It shouldn’t be any longer than 30 minutes?”
  3. When returning to a call, thank the customer for holding—and use the customer’s name. Make the caller feel important by acknowledging their time and by recognizing them by name.

Remember: The number one reason to call a company is to complain or to look for help with a problem. Expect customers to be a bit tense when you initially answer the phone. However, when you treat them with kindness and communicate CLEAR expectations—especially when putting them on hold—you will turn many already angry customers into happy repeat clients.

How do YOU feel when you’re put on hold without an explanation? I’d love to hear your good and bad stories.