“Your call is important to us.” How to make sure long wait times are gone without hiring more operators
Dasha Smirnova3 minute read
Everybody hates long wait times. Here is how you make them history.
What is the Average Wait Time?
Average Wait Time, or AWT, is the average time a caller spends waiting to be routed to a contact center agent. So essentially it’s about how long a customer keeps hearing the “your call is important to us” mantra before seeing for themselves whether it is or isn’t.
I have seen this confused with another important call center metric called the Average Handle Time. AHT reflects how much time an agent needs to solve a customer’s problem: from a customer initiating the call to the agent completing the follow-up tasks.
The standard for AWT
Experts state that it’s conventional for contact centers to try and answer 80% of calls in 20 seconds (also known as the 80/20 rule).
This is not to say the rule can be applied to all industries. Research conducted by Call Centre Helper shows some customers don’t mind waiting longer – it depends on what company they’re calling. It turns out in a sales contact center, more than 50% of callers hung up after 45 seconds of waiting, whereas in a tech support center, over half the callers did so after 95 seconds.
The key takeaway is that customers’ expectations shape their views on acceptable wait times.
Hold on, there is an acceptable wait time?
The attitude towards waiting in a phone queue is changing over time. While most companies aim to answer calls within 20 seconds, they are generally not succeeding.
In 2014, Talkdesk reports, one study found out that the maximum hold time consumers could tolerate was an unbelievable 13 minutes. A 2018 research states that whereas over 60% of customers would settle for less than two minutes in a queue, 13% refused to accept any hold times at all. It turns out nearly one-third of consumers abandon the call and don’t ever try calling again if they don’t get a quick reply. Get your heads around this one guys. They don’t. Ever. Call. Back. Again. It is as bad as it sounds – these companies are losing customers. And I don’t need to remind you that acquiring a new customer costs five times more than retaining an existing one.
So why are companies not giving a hoot?
Well they are. It’s just that the world isn’t what it used to be. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted every single on-shore call center operation. Many were still struggling to transfer fully to WFH in August, some are still struggling today. As the world shut down, customers were stuck at home and the telephone was the closest thing to a human interaction with their favorite brands and service providers. Were the phones overloaded? You bet. Were the wait times long? I’ll just leave you with a report of a Las Vegas resident holding for 11 hours on the line.
So it seems that the customers’ patience is running thin and the call center capacity is running thinner.
How to lower your wait times
IVRs were touted as a solution but the consensus today is that they only make things worse. 67% of consumers hang up because they get frustrated that they can’t talk to a real person. 75% of customers say it takes too long to reach a live agent.
Let me emphasize this again. At least 75% of customers are trying to reach a live agent the whole time they are talking to the IVR. The customers do NOT expect the automated system to solve their problems.
The takeaway here is if you are automating, your automation better darn sure be able to provide some VALUE to the customers on the line. What value? Well, can it solve any of the customers’ pain points? Can it answer any of their queries? If not – your solution is not a solution. It’s just a new form of the old problem.
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