When a caller gets so frustrated at being put on hold that they hang up before ever speaking to you or one of your employees, that’s caller abandonment. And it hurts your bottom line: every dropped call represents untold amounts of lost revenue, because these people are usually frustrated enough to let their friends and family know about their bad on-hold experience, too.
Using certain tactics, you can get callers to stay on the line and reduce your caller abandonment numbers, but they aren’t foolproof. The best way to reduce caller abandonment is to reduce your wait times for phone clients.
Method 1: Entertain Your Callers
Psychologically speaking, when you add value to the time your customers spend waiting, they perceive the wait time as being less than it actually is. One of the ways to do this is to entertain your callers by playing relevant music or messages.
For example, if you own a sports bar, your on-hold message could convey the highlights of the previous week’s big games. If you own a retail clothing store aimed at hip teen and 20-somethings, current chart toppers are sure to please.
There's a potential snag in this method, though – namely that not all callers will be in your target demographic. Consider that the demographics of callers might not be the same as those who utilize your business. For example, a busy hardware store may have an employee call, rather than the contractor or owner – or parents may call your trendy clothing store instead of the teens.
A 1999 study found that, across the board, jazz was the least offensive music to customers, reducing client perception of wait time, regardless of gender and age. All customers found rock music to be agitating when on hold and adult pop/alternative music had neither a positive nor negative effect on perceived wait times when on hold.
When choosing your on-hold music, it’s important to ensure that the rights and licenses for the music you play are properly secured. Not doing so could lead to multiple, major fines to the tune of thousands per song.
Method 2: Give an Estimate
No one likes to feel like they’re on hold indefinitely. Cut down queue anxiety by giving callers an estimated wait time or alerting them to how many people are in line ahead of their call. If callers have no idea how long they’re likely to be stuck in on-hold limbo, they’re more likely to abandon the call.
A finite wait time will always be perceived as passing more quickly than an undefined wait time. Reassure your customers by implementing an on-hold system that lets them know when they move up in the queue or how long an average wait time is – even if it’s just a canned recording stating that you’ll be with them shortly.
A 2002 customer service study by Antonides et. al. concluded that customers who were given an estimate of their time felt less inclined to abandon calls and were more apt to report that they had a positive customer service experience, including a shorter wait time than they actually experienced.
If your phone systems also use an automated attendant, you can give customers the option of leaving their number for a call back when their position in the queue comes up. This option saves everyone frustration and aggravation and can heighten your customers’ perception of your efficiency and customer service.
Method 3: Give Value to Time
Nobody likes waiting – and your customers are obviously important to your business. A positive experience gets passed around, on average, to 15 additional people, while a negative customer service experience is relayed to about 24 others. Show your phone clients that you value their time as much as they do by offering a special promotion just for callers who have to wait. Whether it’s a discount or a special deal that only callers on-hold will know about, it gives value to their wait time.
How customers perceive the value of your product or service also affects how long they’ll wait to speak to someone. A person is more likely to hang on the line for a big ticket item than a common, everyday item they’re able to get anywhere. If your on-hold message includes a rundown of deals, include some of your most valuable items or services. The more your customer wants your products or services, the longer they’re willing to wait.
The Antonides study, as well as a study on health care on-hold services by the Beryl Institute, both found that the more a piece of information was worth to a client, the longer they were willing to wait to speak with a live customer service representative.
Method 4: Keep it Fresh
Keeping your music, messages, promotions and advertising fresh is important, especially if you regularly experience a high call volume and have to put people, possibly returning customers, on hold regularly. If customers hear the same thing over and over, to the point where they can mimic it exactly, they’re likely to be very upset.
Find an easy-to-use setup for on-hold services that allows you to manage it yourself. For example, the Global Retail Radio Internet Database (GRRID) system allows you to access your message and customize it with just a few clicks of a mouse – no tricky coding languages to learn or bulky and complicated software to figure out.
A good on-hold service that helps you manage your system also allows you to choose from a large catalog of fully-licensed music and record or change your messages at any time.
Keeping Customers Satisfied While On Hold
You’ll almost always have a caller abandonment rate, but using proven methods to reduce caller anxiety and agitation can reduce your caller abandonment numbers, keeping you from losing revenue.
Make sure customers understand that you value their time, that you’re eager to speak with them and that you’re willing to entertain them while they wait. If, after implementing good on-hold practices and queue management services, you still have a large caller abandonment number, consider other options, such as an automated attendant, auto-callback system or hiring more phone operators to field calls and reduce the time your customers spend waiting on-hold.
By working with a company that knows the ins-and-outs of on-hold music, on-hold messages and customer satisfaction techniques, you can decrease caller abandonment rates and keep them coming back for more.