Contact Center

The Art of Managing Hold Time in Call Centers: Guide to Success

Abhishek Punyani
December 29, 2023
12
 mins read

Last modified on

Hold time is a critical component of the customer service experience, and it plays a pivotal role in determining the overall satisfaction of callers. Whether you're a business owner, a call center manager, or a call center agent, understanding what hold time is, its impact on various aspects of customer service, and how to manage it effectively is essential for delivering exceptional service. 

In this blog post, we will delve into the depths of hold time, exploring its significance, effects, and strategies for improvement.

How can Convin help in achieving a lower hold time?

What is Hold Time?

Hold time in a call center refers to the amount of time a customer or caller spends waiting on hold during a phone call before being connected to a live customer service representative or agent. It is a crucial metric that is used to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of a call center's operations and customer service

Here is an in-depth explanation of what hold time in a call center entails

1. Customer Waiting Period

Hold/wait time begins the moment a customer's call is received and they are placed on hold. During this time, the caller is typically listening to music, recorded messages, or announcements while waiting for an available agent.

2. Measuring Hold Time

Hold time is typically measured in seconds or minutes, and it is an essential metric that call centers use to assess their performance. It can be tracked on an individual call basis or aggregated to calculate average hold times for specific periods, such as daily, weekly, or monthly averages.

3. Purpose of Hold Time

3 primary purposes in a call center environment

  • Queue Management: It allows call centers to manage the queue of incoming calls efficiently. Callers are placed on hold in a first-come, first-served order, ensuring that they are served in the order they called.
  • Agent Availability: Hold time gives agents time to wrap up previous calls, prepare for the next interaction, or attend to other administrative tasks before taking the next call.
  • Call Routing: Call center software systems often use hold time as a factor in determining which agent should receive the next call. Calls may be routed to agents with the shortest expected hold time.

4. Average Hold Time in Call Centers

Average Hold Time (AHT) in call centers refers to the average amount of time a caller spends on hold, waiting in the queue, before their call is answered by a live agent. A lower AHT is generally preferred as it indicates quicker service, but it should be balanced with the need to provide quality assistance to callers.

5. Acceptable Hold Time in Customer Service

Acceptable hold time in customer service refers to the duration that customers consider reasonable and tolerable when waiting on hold before speaking with a live agent. Providing an acceptable hold time is crucial for a positive customer experience.

Hold time in a call center is the time a customer spends waiting on hold during a call before connecting with an agent. It is a critical aspect of call center management, affecting customer satisfaction, call center metrics, and overall customer service quality. 

Now that we have a clear understanding of what hold time in a call center entails, let's delve deeper into the fascinating world of customer service and explore how hold time can significantly affect it.

What are The Effects of Hold Time on Customer Service?

Hold time in a call center can have a significant impact on customer service, influencing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and overall perception of a business. 

Here's an in-depth look at the effects of hold time on customer service

1. Customer Satisfaction

2. Customer Loyalty

3. Customer Abandonment

  • Prolonged hold times can result in customer abandonment, negatively impacting customer service and call center efficiency.

Suggestive Read: What is customer retention?

4. Customer Perception

  • Hold time significantly shapes customers' perception of a company's responsiveness and service quality.
  • Customers may view long hold times as a need for more consideration for their time, impacting their trust in the brand.

5. Reduced First Call Resolution (FCR)

  • Agents can address customer inquiries more effectively when not burdened by long hold times.
  • High hold times often lead to decreased FCR rates, requiring customers to make multiple contacts to resolve their issues.

Suggestive Read: Tips to improve FCR

Hold time in a call center is a critical factor that directly impacts customer service. Excessive hold times can lead to decreased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and efficiency, while acceptable hold times contribute to positive customer experiences. 

Having explored the significant effects of hold time on customer service, let's now shift our focus to the broader implications of hold time within the call center, examining its impact on various levels.

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What is The Impact on the Call Center on Various Levels?

Hold time in a call center has a multi-faceted impact that reaches the organizational and agent levels. 

In this detailed explanation, we'll explore how hold time affects each of these levels, supported by relevant statistics and key insights.

1. Organizational Level

a. Call Center Metrics

  • High hold times can disrupt key call center metrics, affecting overall performance.
  • For instance, Average Hold Time (AHT) is directly impacted by excessive hold times, leading to longer average call durations and potentially higher costs.

b. Operational Efficiency

  • Extended hold times can decrease operational efficiency.
  • Agents' time is occupied with customers on hold, reducing their availability to handle new calls efficiently.

c. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

  • Many organizations commit to meeting SLAs that include hold time targets.
  • Failing to meet these SLAs can lead to contractual penalties and a tarnished reputation.

2. Agent Level

a. Stress and Burnout

b. Decreased Morale

c. Handling Efficiency

  • Agents can serve customers more effectively when not burdened by long hold times.
  • High hold times often lead to decreased First Call Resolution (FCR) rates, requiring multiple contacts to resolve issues.

Some Statistics Highlighting the Impact of Hold Time on Call Centers!

Statistics have a compelling story to tell when it comes to the impact of call centers. These numbers unveil crucial insights about call center performance, customer experiences, and operational efficiency. 

In this discussion, we will delve into a range of statistics that shed light on how call centers shape the customer journey, impact business outcomes, and drive continuous improvement. 

Effective hold time management is crucial in maintaining a healthy balance between operational efficiency and customer service excellence, resulting in benefits for both the organization and its customers.

After exploring the profound impact that hold time can have on call centers and customer service, let's shift our focus toward benchmarks for hold time. 

What is The Benchmark for Hold Time?

The benchmark for acceptable hold time in a call center can vary depending on several factors, including industry standards, customer expectations, and the nature of the calls. However, as a general guideline, an acceptable hold time for customers is typically considered to be less than two minutes. 

Here's a breakdown of the benchmarks

1. Industry Standards

  • Different industries may have varying standards for acceptable hold times. For example, emergency services or healthcare hotlines may aim for near-instantaneous response times, while other industries, like retail or technical support, may have slightly longer acceptable hold times.

2. Customer Expectations

  • Customer expectations play a significant role in determining the acceptable hold time. As customer service standards evolve, there is an increasing emphasis on shorter wait times. Many customers expect their calls to be answered promptly, and longer hold times can lead to frustration.

3. Nature of the Call

  • The type of call and its urgency can influence acceptable hold times. For routine inquiries or non-urgent matters, customers may be willing to wait a bit longer. However, for critical issues or emergencies, the acceptable hold time may be much shorter.

4. Call Center Capacity

  • The call center's staffing levels and resources also impact the acceptable hold time. Call centers with more agents available to answer calls can typically maintain shorter hold times.
  • The telecom call centers have an occupancy rate of 80-90%, which indicates a proportionate workload for agents and ensures that they continue to perform their jobs while dealing with customer interactions. (Source: srinkler.com)
  • It's important to note that while the benchmark for acceptable hold time is generally set at around two minutes, striving for shorter hold times is advisable. 
  • Shorter hold times not only meet customer expectations but also contribute to higher customer satisfaction, increased efficiency, and better overall call center performance.

Having gotten an understanding of specific factors that are used to set benchmarks, let's shift our focus to how we can reduce the hold time to achieve better customer satisfaction.

How to Reduce Hold Time in Call Center? 

Reducing hold times in a call center is essential for improving customer satisfaction, enhancing operational efficiency, and meeting performance goals. 

Here are several strategies and best practices to reduce hold time.

1. Streamline Call Routing

  • Optimize call routing algorithms to ensure calls are directed to the most appropriate agents based on skills and availability.
  • Implement intelligent IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems to route routine inquiries to self-service options or specialized queues.

2. Staffing and Resource Allocation

  • Hire and train additional agents during peak call times, ensuring a sufficient workforce to handle incoming calls promptly.
  • Maintain a flexible staffing model to adjust to changing call volumes.

3. Self-Service Options

  • Implement self-service options for common customer inquiries and transactions.
  • Encourage customers to use self-service channels for quick issue resolution, reducing the load on live agents.

4. Continuous Monitoring and Reporting

  • Continuously monitor call center metrics, including Average Hold Time (AHT), abandonment rates, and service levels.
  • Use real-time and historical data to identify trends and areas for improvement.

5. Training and Skill Development:

  • Invest in agent training and skill development to improve their efficiency and problem-solving abilities.
  • Equip agents with techniques to handle calls more effectively, reducing the time spent on each call.

6. Feedback and Surveys

  • Gather feedback from customers about their hold time experiences through surveys and feedback forms.
  • Use customer input to make data-driven improvements in hold time management.

Reducing hold times in a call center requires a multifaceted approach that combines technology, staffing, process optimization, and customer-centric strategies. 

By implementing these practices and continuously monitoring call center metrics, organizations can create a more efficient and satisfying customer service experience while maintaining acceptable hold times.

Take the First Step with Convin!

Convin offers innovative solutions that can significantly contribute to improving hold times in call centers. Leveraging their products can help call centers streamline processes, enhance customer experiences, and ultimately reduce hold times. Here's a breakdown of how organizations can achieve this with Convin:

1. Automated Transcription and Analysis

  • Convin's products are equipped with advanced speech-to-text technology that can transcribe customer-agent interactions accurately.
  • By automating the transcription process, call centers can quickly extract valuable insights from customer conversations, enabling them to identify areas where hold times can be reduced.

2. Real-time Monitoring and Analytics

  • Convin provides real-time monitoring and analytics capabilities, allowing supervisors and managers to keep a close eye on call center performance.
  • By identifying bottlenecks and issues in real-time, call center managers can take immediate action to reduce hold times.

3. Agent Training and Performance Improvement

  • Convin's products offer call center agents the opportunity to review their interactions and learn from them.
  • Agents can gain insights into how to handle calls more efficiently, potentially leading to quicker issue resolution and shorter hold times.

4. Performance Metrics and Reporting

  • Convin offers comprehensive performance metrics and reporting tools.
  • Call center managers can use these insights to continually monitor and optimize processes, making data-driven decisions to reduce hold times.
Benefits of using Call Center Agent Scorecards
Benefits of using Call Center Agent Scorecards

By leveraging these solutions, call centers can deliver a more efficient and satisfying customer service experience while effectively reducing hold times and meeting customer expectations. So, if you're looking to boost your call centers and drive your business to success, let Convin be your partner in this journey. Book a demo today!

FAQ

1. How long is an acceptable hold time?

An acceptable hold time for customers is typically less than two minutes, as longer wait times can lead to dissatisfaction.

2. What is the average handle time in a call center?

Average Handle Time (AHT) in a call center measures the average duration agents spend on a call, including hold time and talk time.

3. What determines hold time?

Hold time is determined by call center policies, staffing levels, call volume, and customer expectations.

4. Can hold time be negative?

Hold time cannot be negative; it represents the duration customers spend waiting on hold.

5. How can I reduce my hold time?

To reduce hold time, streamline call routing, increase staffing during peak periods, implement self-service options, and continuously monitor and optimize call center processes.

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