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Using Queue Callback Feature Won’t Eliminate Hold Time


“Your estimated hold time is.. one hour and twenty minutes. If you like, we can call you back when an agent becomes available.” When hold times are long, a queue callback feature can help retain customers. Reducing long hold times is essential, especially after the period of the pandemic, when hold times doubled, tripled, or quadrupled! If you’re thinking about adding a customer call-back system to your customer experience, be aware that it does not replace your caller experience, which includes some “on hold time.” Read on to gain an understanding of how music on hold is still required, even with a queue call-back system.

The customer queue experience almost always includes some amount of waiting on hold.

One of our credit union message on hold customers that had been using a carefully-scripted message on hold marketing program for callers on hold notified us that they would no longer need on-hold messages. Really? How is that? “We have a new phone system that eliminates customer hold time.” Amazing.

Months later, after providing adequate time for the telecom team to work out any bugs, we called and asked a common question, “What are my options for a car loan?” What happened? You guessed it. Hold time. In that two-to-three minute wait, I could have learned all about the great loan options and services the credit union offered. A few years later, the messages on hold returned to the queue. That’s over 10-thousand hours of up-close time with those valuable customers, wasted.

Moral of the story: There’s no such thing as a new phone system that eliminates hold time. Customers having to wait, even a few minutes, is an inevitability that requires a thoughtful solution. We’re all for reducing hold times, which can be aided by new technology.

Even with customer queue callback, you will have customers holding.

In a recent new alert email, I saw a puzzling headline: Why you should keep callers from staying on hold. It came from an article posted on Inside Indiana Business. Of course, no one likes waiting on hold, and no contact center manager is in favor of long hold times. The headline says, “keep callers from staying on hold.” There is no claim that you can keep callers from being on hold.

In our article on call center management, we quote the Small Business Chronicle finding that after an average of 1 minute 55 seconds of hold time, most callers hang up. Some queue callback services will track the time at which most callers hang up and try to offer the callback option prior to that point. Up until that callback option is offered, your business has plenty of time to talk to your customers. Why not take advantage of that time with custom messages on hold?

Another call center call-back service has a bold headline, “Say goodbye to hold time.” It’s a misleading statement since their service does not eliminate hold time, but aims to reduce the number of calls in queue. That’s not fewer callers to talk to, of course. The contact center needs proper staffing to help customers.

Does Queue Callback help the contact center operation?

Recently, an IVR/Call center expert explained something to me that should have been obvious:

“For the contact center, the call-back option doesn’t reduce the number of callers needing attention. All you’re doing is taking an agent away from handling one group of callers to talk to another group of callers. The only way to get ahead is if there is a slow period following a peak period.”

Contact Center Expert

A contact center with a peak caller period (or “spike” in callers) can benefit from a callback option by moving callers from the peak to the slow period. Otherwise, the contact center isn’t helping itself much. But what about the customers? Let’s not forget the goal of improving customer experiences.

Does Queue Callback enhance customer service?

From a customer perspective, having options (but not too many) is good. Of course, you’d never want to force a call-back option on any customer. I’ll bet you know people who don’t trust those “voice callbacks” and will remain on hold rather than risk being unavailable when the call comes back to them.

Getting the caller to agree to the callback

In order to convince the customer that the callback is their best option, they are told that they will not lose their place in the call queue. Some systems will tell the customer that the callback is coming in a certain number of minutes. Others allow the customer to choose a callback time.

Be mindful of claims

Services that offer a customer callback feature will claim that their service is a way to improve customer service. They quote:

  1. Fewer abandoned calls – An abandoned call is one that hangs up without speaking to an agent. One of the ways to improve this is by answering frequently-asked questions with custom messages on hold in the queue.
  2. Less wait time – The idea behind the callback feature is less waiting on hold. More accurately, this would be fewer callers waiting on hold. Wait time for the customers still holding should be measured. Hold time is still happening, so address it.
  3. Customer satisfaction – Among callers who prefer a call-back, satisfaction is expected to increase. For other callers, the “on hold” experience will determine their customer satisfaction rating.
  4. Helps agents focus on the customers they’re currently working with – This is kind of funny, because to the callers on hold, this means their call really is not “important to us.” It’s the job of the contact center manager, marketing manager or business team to think about the callers that are waiting on hold and do something for them.

No more hold time? Don’t believe it.

When a company has hold times that are long, meaning over 10 minutes, a callback feature may be a useful option to help both call agents and customers. Our point here is to remind you that even with such a feature, you will still have callers holding. Waiting. Listening for any clue that you care.

Some people, for various reasons, don’t want to receive a call-back. Others have become frustrated after attempting to find the answer they seek online, in a chatbot, on a forum, or blog. They don’t want to have to call, but they’re out of options.

For those who trust and will use a callback feature, don’t forget about the minutes that go by before they make the decision to request the return call. Those minutes are “gold” to a business, and can be used to improve satisfaction, build your brand and product awareness and eventually enhance the customer relationship to the point of increased sales.

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