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How to Put a Call on Hold without Upsetting Your Customers

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Bob is on his laptop pounding away on the keyboard, a deadline is breathing down his neck. Suddenly, his internet connection drops.

Seething, Bob gives the internet service’s technical support a call, goes through a cavalcade of voice prompts until finally, he connects with a living, breathing person.

Bob tries to explain his issue calmly, and then the representative tells (not asks) him that he’s putting him on hold.

And so the rep places him on hold without much ceremony. Cue the annoying music.

If you were Bob, how would you feel?


Let’s cut to the chase: customers don’t like being put on hold.

If a representative has no choice in the matter, the least he could do is be professional or nice about it. The customer deserves that courtesy. After all, they’re paying for the service.

How can customer service reps put customers on hold without upsetting them, or at least not too much?

1. Before the Hold

Representatives have to talk in a professional yet pleasant voice and use the customer’s name to establish a connection. Use paraphrasing to let customers know that the rep understands the issue.

And when reps need to put the customer on hold, they should ask first and do it nicely. Moreover, they should explain the reason why they have to place the customer on hold.

For example, a representative can tell the customer, “May I place you on hold for a minute or two while I do some quick research on this issue?”

Reps also need to tell the customer that they’ll get back to him, or her in a minute. It goes without saying that that promise has to be kept.

Remember, most customers tend to get frustrated when they get put on hold for more than two minutes. For a customer on the phone, two minutes feel like forever.

2. What to Say After the Hold

When getting back to the customer, reps can either thank them for their patience, or apologize for placing them on hold.

The latter is more appropriate if the caller was already put on hold more than once or was made to wait for more than a minute (that shouldn’t happen in the first place, but just in case).

If the wait time is too long and the representative is not yet done with what they’re doing, they need to get back to the customer to let him/her know that she hasn’t forgotten about them.

But what if a customer doesn’t want to be put on hold? The answer is simple: don’t put the customer on hold unless you need to transfer the call to a more appropriate department.

Four Things to Avoid

  • Interrupting the caller so that he can be put on hold.
  • Putting the customer on hold for more than two minutes.
  • Asking a customer if he can call back (the rep should be the one to call the customer back).
  • Putting the caller on hold too many times.

What’s next?

By following all the steps and tips mentioned above, hold times will be less frustrating for customers, which can positively impact the customer experience and customer support services you provide in a big way.

Of course, the offshore call center has to do some of the heavy lifting as well. The first step is to evaluate the center’s systems and procedures and check which areas may require fixes and improvement.

Once problem areas are detected, necessary fixes  have to be made as soon as possibles so that your company can continue to improve the handling of these difficult situations. 

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