How many customers have you lost because they were on hold for too long? In fact, do you even know how many customers are regularly being placed on hold by your agents?

A recent independent study revealed that more than eighty percent of people are put on hold every time they contact a business. The report shows that out of every 500 customers, more than half spend between 10–20 minutes on hold per week.

To avoid confusion, our definition of hold time is the amount of time your customer is put on hold while they are on a call with an agent. This is not to be confused with the equally frustrating amount of time a customer spends waiting for their call to be answered (and listening to brain-meltingly bad muzak, no doubt).

Being on hold is a sure-fire contributor to a poor customer experience (CX). Seventeen percent of respondents to a recent Zendesk survey reported that being on hold is the one thing that frustrates them most when they have to contact a business.

Tracking hold time is essential to improving your CX, but the exercise serves another, equally important function – it helps you pinpoint poor agent performance.

Hold vs handle time

Handle time is a common metric to measure agent performance and is made up of three things: talk time, hold time and wrap-up time. According to the International Finance Corporation’s global best practice report, the global recommended average for handle time is four minutes.

Measuring an agent’s performance by the amount of time they spend talking to a customer is tricky. It could be a complicated query, a customer might be armed with several questions, or else that agent was really determined to resolve that customer’s query first time round.

If your agent’s average handle time exceeds the four-minute benchmark, it might be worth having a look at that agent’s hold time.

Hold time can tell you several important things:

  • your agent doesn’t know their material and needed to ask for help.
  • your agent needs more training.
  • your agent is abusing the hold function to avoid taking calls.

How to combat hold time

Reducing handle time should be done carefully. Resolving queries quicker can negatively affect the customer experience. You also don’t want to encourage your agents to rush through the wrap-up. Hold time, however, is another story altogether. Reducing the amount of time a customer is placed on hold should get you the Best Business of the Year award.

You can reduce hold time by:

  • scheduling call-backs.
  • updating your knowledge base.
  • continuously training your agents.
  • monitoring and recording calls.
  • optimizing routing to ensure the right agents handle queries relevant to their role or skillset.
  • improving your IVR with more self-service options.
  • holding your agents accountable.

Tracking hold time allows your team leaders to get a better picture of what your agents are up to and how they’re performing. It also allows you to identify areas for improvement, such as a need for more agent training, gaps in your knowledge base, performance management and improved routing.

No one likes being on hold. Do the right thing for your customers and your contact center. It’s one decision you’ll never regret.

Want to read more customer best practice articles? Learn how to reduce your call abandonment rates here.