Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

How Message on Hold Can Increase Call Tolerance

Caller Tolerance 2 94517871In 2001, ICMI (Incoming Calls Management Institute) released a whitepaper stressing the importance of retaining incoming calls. A section of the paper is devoted to answering this pressing question:

Why Do Callers Abandon?

"Research by the North American Telecommunications Association shows that 90 percent of customers onsilent hold abandon after 40 seconds. That means that you could lose those customers if they’re not hearing something. Playing music for callers who are on hold will increase the hold time by 30 seconds;however, the type of music played will have an affect on the caller’s perception of delay. A study by Avaya Communications, a global provider of communications solutions and services, found that, whilemen perceived the wait to be shorter while listening to classical music, women perceived a longer waittime with the same type of music. And both sexes perceived the wait time to be longer when rock musicwas played, while “light jazz” created the perception of a shorter wait time."

This direct research proves that callers abandon, but still doesn't tackle the root of the "why," or more importantly, "how" call centers can adapt their on hold messages to curb abandonment. 

Therefore, the author, Jean Bave-Kerwin, compiled the following list, adapted from Call Center Management in Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland and Julia Mayben, to show "the factors that influence everything from how long callers will wait in queue to how many will abandon, how many will retry when they get busy signals, and how they will react to automation, such as a voice response unit."

The Seven Factors of Caller Tolerance

1. Degree of motivation: How motivated are your callers? Callers experiencing a power outage will usually wait longer to reach their utility than those with billing questions.

2. Availability of substitutes: Are there substitutes callers can use if they can’t get through to the initial number? If callers are highly motivated and have no substitutes, they will retry many times if they get busies and will generally wait a long time in queue, if necessary. But if they know of an alternative number to try, or if there are other selections in your automated attendant (“press one for this, two for that”), they may try those alternatives. Or they may try fax, Web or VRU-based services. They may even walk down the street if you have a retail outlet.

3. Competition’s service level: If it’s easier for callers to use competitive services or if they have a tough time reaching you, they may go elsewhere. 

4. Level of expectations: An organization’s or industry’s reputation for service — or the level of service being promoted — has a bearing on caller tolerance.

5. Time available: For example, a caller’s occupation can affect caller tolerance. Doctors who call insurance providers are infamous for being intolerant of even modest queues. Retirees, on the other hand, may have more time to wait. 

6. Who’s paying for the call: In general, callers are more tolerant of a queue when the call is free to them. They are intolerant of even short waits when they are paying for premium-priced numbers (e.g., 900 service).

7. Human behavior: The weather, the caller’s mood and the day’s news all have some bearing on caller tolerance.

Source: Call Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland and Julia Maybe


Does your business follow these guidelines? How do you think you can make your message on hold even more effective?

Tags: resources, message on hold, customer experience