It's Official: Customers Hate Waiting in Line or On Hold
People are suspicious by nature today. Perhaps we’re all jaded. Whatever the reason, we no longer believe what the average company tells us. For instance, when we call a customer support phone number and are told by a cheerful, automated voice that call volumes are high, and wait times are long, many of us think of the last time we were in a brick and mortar store.
The scenario usually goes like this: we enter a store. For the sake of example, let’s call it an office supply store. We’re in a hurry. Though there are eight check-out counters, only one is staffed. The individual ringing customers up is a teenager who looks like he woke up from a nap recently, and he’s moving at a snail’s pace. Though there are four other employees wandering the store (including a manager who is looking everywhere but at the line of customers), the line is getting longer, and customers are becoming more impatient.
It’s such a familiar scenario that most of us are certain it happens in call centers, as well. We can picture one agent on the telephone while a half dozen others mill around aimlessly, and a manager files her nails. Whether it’s true or not, experience has taught us, as customers, to be dubious about the quality of customer care we’re regularly offered.
Fair or not, it’s urgent that companies – both brick and mortar and call center – dispel this perception. A recent British study conducted by Box (News - Alert) Technologies and Intel found that 41 percent of customers have reported abandoning a purchase due to long wait times in checkout lines, and 86 percent say they avoid stores where they perceive the lines to be too long. In a similar vein, a majority of customers believe that more than five minutes is too long to wait on hold for an agent, and will often abandon a company that forces them to do so.
According to the same study, three quarters (76 percent) of respondents reported that stores should be doing more to reduce queues in busy periods. While the study applies to brick and mortar stores, it’s a lesson to be learned for call centers, too. In a virtual environment, poor planning, forecasting and scheduling are usually to blame for long hold times, followed by understaffing. While contact center managers may not be able to do anything about understaffing (besides begging company executives to hire more agents), they can control forecasting and scheduling problems.
Having the optimum number of agents at the right time with the right skills, in the right place is essential to success in the contact center. Unfortunately, many companies are still trying to accomplish this with manual processes and spreadsheets, which is why they are hitting and missing so often. Modern workforce management and scheduling solutions help by automating critical tasks to help bring about more accurate call volume forecasting, staffing calculations and scheduling and daily performance tracking, so companies are not caught unawares by high call volumes (and when they are, they can manage it better).
Waiting – whether it’s in a store line or on hold on the phone – is one of customers’ biggest pet peeves today. By taking steps to eliminate wait times, companies can go a long way toward improving customer relations with one simple solution.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi