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Are You Losing Customers to Hold Time?


September 17, 2014

Are You Losing Customers to Hold Time?

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For years, contact centers have measured performance by ASA (average speed of answer). An ASA under 60 seconds is considered successful, but today’s customers are used to instant access. Having to wait even ten more seconds could be enough for a customer to drop the call.

Understanding the Customer Experience

Customers call your business because they need something. This need is usually urgent, but even when it’s not, the customer doesn’t want to take any more time out of his day to deal with this phone call. Your customers have businesses to run, families to enjoy, and responsibilities to handle. In a fast-paced world, every second the customer spends on the phone is a second they don’t spend at some other important task.

The Impact of Hold Time on Customer Experience

While most customers don’t expect an agent to pick up as soon as the phone rings, a long response time can end up being a disappointment. The longer a customer is on hold, the more dissatisfied they feel, reducing engagement even before an agent handles the call. Add levels of service, call transfers, and secondary holds, and a good service call can quickly go bad.

It’s not just the hold time that impacts the customer experience. Having been left on hold, the customer may be upset when an agent finally speaks to him. The agent is automatically handicapped by something outside of his or her control, and may have to work harder to end the call in a way that satisfies the customer.

Reducing Average Hold Time with Smart Technology

Instead of trying to predict call volume (which is impossible be right about every time), call centers can use technology from companies like OneReach to handle customer needs with integrated automation and text chat options.

Providing customers with options for connecting with agents reduces strain on your contact center network. In some cases, experienced operators may be able to handle multiple text chat requests at a time, increasing throughput without risking quality interactions. Even on a one-to-one basis, text chat is a great way to answer simple questions, point customers to helpful web pages, or provide automated–but helpful–responses to common questions. Customers aren’t stuck on hold trying to get the help they need–they can text an agent their problem and receive an immediate answer.

One-Size Doesn’t Fit All

Not every person is comfortable with text, and not every situation can be handled via a typed message. OneReach lets organizations use caller phone numbers or emails to provide an automated, contextualized response that reduces hold times and call center labor needs. The idea of such structures is to automate simple tasks or answers in a smart way. The system might pull up a customer’s history and ask the customer if they are calling for shipping information or to reorder a product. Such requests can be handled immediately, without the need for an operator.

Automation shouldn’t be about taking people out of customer service, but about putting service back into the equation. Overwhelmed contact centers that think smart are more likely to see improved customer satisfaction scores and other metrics.

Photo by Flickr user by Rochelle Hartman.

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