How to avoid putting customers on hold for too long

Peyton Duplechien • 05 Dec 2019 • 4 min read

Nobody likes to be put on hold. Be it for a simple solution or a complex conversation, in most cases, being put on hold is a surefire way to annoy your customers and cause them to turn elsewhere for their consumer needs.

Simply put, customers want answers or troubleshooting to their problems right away. In fact, by the time they’ve called, they’re probably already impatient from the inconvenience of having to call you in the first place.

Putting customers on hold for too long can be a death sentence for a phone interaction. Even if it’s just for 30 seconds, you could be saying goodbye to that customer in a very short span of time.

However, that’s not to say you can never put customers on hold. In fact, there are many scenarios where it’s required. That’s why we’ve broken down exactly how to put a customer on hold, what the acceptable hold time for customer service is, and how hold time affects customer experience overall – all so you can soothe a caller’s irritation.

What is the first step in placing a customer on hold?

First things first, when considering putting a customer on hold, you need to be absolutely sure that this is the right action to take. The last thing you want is for a customer to get the impression that you’re putting them on hold as an excuse to not address their issues.

Instead, take stock of the situation and decide if you need to step away from the phone brief in order to solve the customer’s issue. If this is the case, calmly explain why you need to put the caller on hold and ask their permission to do so.

Doing this will help to relax the customer and make it clear to them that you’re actively solving their problem, though to do so, you require someone with more knowledge than you in that specific area.

Other key steps to take when placing a customer on hold

While telling a customer why you’re placing them on hold is the main thing to do when this situation arises, it’s not the only step you can take. Below are several other key considerations to think about when placing a customer on hold:

  • Ask for their contact details – before placing a caller on hold, it’s always a good idea to ask for a contact number in case the call disconnects. That way you can call them back and continue the call where you left off.
  • Provide a hold estimation – while not always possible, providing a timed estimation of how long a customer might be on hold can help minimize frustration.
  • Check back regularly – if the problem is taking longer than the hold time to rectify, be sure to check back in with the customer regularly to update them on the process and ensure they don’t feel abandoned.
  • Apologize for the time delay – when returning to a call, be sure to apologize for the time delay and the inconvenience it’s caused to the customer’s day.
  • Use their name – where possible, try to use the customer’s name to personalize the call, though don’t overdo it to the point of excess.

How long should a customer be on hold?

Ideally, a customer should be left on hold for as little time as possible. Even with a time estimate, the longer a call remains on hold, the longer the customer in question is going to have to wait. This in turn often leads to added frustration and poor opinion of your customer service.

However, some hold times are unavoidable. So, if you do find that a problem may take more than a few seconds to resolve, then an acceptable hold time for customer service is at most two minutes. And longer than this and you need to check in with your customer.

How often should you update a caller who is on hold?

In most cases of placing a customer on hold, you shouldn’t need to update them on the progress of their solution more than once. However, if the issue is taking longer than two minutes to clear up, then you should look to update your customer on the situation every few minutes.

How hold time affects customer experience

As we’ve already touched on, long hold times can really affect the interactions you have with customers. The longer a customer is left on hold, the more frustrated and angry they’re likely to become.

So, as we’ve stated already, try to keep your hold times as short as possible.

Things to avoid when putting customers on hold

Now that we’ve covered exactly how to put a customer on hold, what are some things you should avoid doing during this process? Here are our top tips for things to avoid doing when placing a customer on hold:

  • Don’t interrupt – you want to avoid interrupting callers wherever possible. Instead, wait for a natural pause in the conversation before explaining that you’ll be putting them on hold to fix their problem.
  • Don’t abruptly hold – whatever you do, don’t ever put a customer on hold without telling them. As we stated earlier, you should always ask a customer if it’s okay to put them on hold while explaining the purpose of doing so.
  • Don’t hold multiple times – you should avoid putting any caller on hold more than once in a call. Otherwise, you risk frustrating them and leaving them with a bad opinion of your company.

Avoid hold times with VoiceNation

So, now you know exactly how to handle putting customers on hold when the need arises. But did you know this can be made even easier with the help of a professionally trained Virtual Receptionist?

Here at VoiceNation, our Live Answering Service team have the experience needed to handle all manner of customer needs, including the right etiquette for placing customers on hold.

Get in touch with us directly to learn more about what our call services can offer you, and whether or not our Live Chat options might also be of benefit for your business. You can also find plenty of similar articles to this one over on our blog, including pieces on how to handle angry customers over the phone and phone answering etiquette.