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02.07.17 | blog
Author: Taylor Jones

Arise 2017 Customer Service Frustration Series: Phone Hold Times

It’s safe to say waiting on hold for a live agent is a universally frustrating and life-wasting experience. Looking at the data, 2015 Consumer Reports issue showed that the top complaint among consumers was the inability to get a live agent and a TalkTo and ResearchNow study estimates the average person will spend 43 days of their life on hold. These stats aren’t just frustrating to consumers, but also meaningful to the financial performance of companies -- of those hang up after being on hold for too long Voice Response Inc. showed more than 1 in 3 will never call back.

So what is the breaking point for hold times?  With customer expectations increasing and contact channel preferences changing, how long will today’s customers wait before hanging up?

Arise recently conducted a Google Consumer Survey of over 1,500 U.S. Consumers on January 4, 2017 asking them: “When contacting customer service by phone, how long are you willing to wait for an agent before hanging up?”  Respondents could select one of the following intervals:

  • No hold time is acceptable
  • 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • 1 minute
  • 1 minute to 2 minutes
  • Longer than 2 minutes

Choices were shown randomly reversing answer order to maintain order, but reduce bias from respondents clicking on answers in a particularly slot. Respondents could also note that they do not contact customer service by phone.

Overall Results: What is the Hold Time Breaking Point*

Key findings for respondents selecting a maximum hold time range before hanging up:

  1. Nearly two-thirds selected they are only willing to wait 2 minutes or less before hanging up.
  2. Over 13% selected that no hold time is acceptable.

These results come in stark contrast to similar surveys like the 2014 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer which showed customers were willing to wait a maximum of 13 minutes on hold.  The clear implication is customers want customer service on-demand, or will go elsewhere.

While not a focus of this study, an interesting aside is an omnichannel discussion. 15% of all respondents for this survey selected that they do not contact customer service by phone. With today’s customer expecting omnichannel accessibility from their brands, this number may grow, but research tells us that having a live phone agent experience is still important – a PSFK study shows that 83% of consumers want a live person on the phone to handle customer service issues across channels.

Results By Age Group

Perhaps surprising to some, of respondents selecting a max hold time range, millennials were the most patient with the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups selecting a maximal hold time of longer than 2 minutes at a rate higher than any other.  As a general trend with these results, the likelihood of a customer hanging up inside 2 minutes increased by age group.

 

Maximal Hold Time

Age Group

Under Two Minutes

Longer Than 2 Minutes

18-24

59%

41%

25-34

62%

38%

35-44

67%

33%

45-54

66%

34%

55-64

68%

32%

65+

74%

26%

In terms of differences in rates of not using phone, there’s no consistent pattern across age groups, but it is interesting to see the differences:

Age Group

Does Not Contact Customer Service By Phone

18-24

18%

25-34

13%

35-44

17%

45-54

14%

55-64

16%

65+

14%

Results By Gender

There was little difference comparing responses by gender in this study.  Below are the full results

Gender

Under Two Minutes

Longer Than 2 Minutes

Does Not Use Phone

Male

57%

29%

14%

Female

56%

29%

15%

The raw survey data is accessible here.

*The Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) Score of this study was 2.2%


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taylor Jones serves as the Senior Manager of Marketing & Business Development at Arise where he is responsible for managing digital marketing strategy and business development efforts. He has a keen interest in what companies need to create strong customer experiences and successful customer contact operations. Jones holds an MBA in Leadership from Queens University of Charlotte and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics & Spanish from the University of South Carolina Honors College.

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