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Hang Up or hold On? Study Shows Businesses Underestimate Callers Tendancy to Hang Up and Overestimate their Willingness to Hold On!

Hang Up or hold On? Study Shows Businesses Underestimate Callers Tendancy to Hang Up and Overestimate their Willingness to Hold On!


Nobody likes to wait, but since customer service isn’t a one-size fits all solution that can be packaged to sit on a shelf ready at the drop of a hat when we need it, everybody has to “get in line” for help from banks, retail stores, tech support, healthcare providers, credit card companies and lots of places we call on a daily basis. These days, that also usually means dialing a call center somewhere in the world, which makes understanding caller patience increasingly important.  Without professional on hold messages, a recent study shows that you may be playing Russian Roulette with your waiting callers on hold!

The study, co-authored by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business professors Baris Ata and Che-Lin Su, and published in the journal “Management Science,” offers a more accurate approach to modeling caller patience than ever before, which could help customer waiting time on hold, while helping your business too.  Based on data drawn directly from 1.3 million calls to a banking customer service center, the study showed predictions were off substantially  about caller-abandonment rates (hang-ups before getting the opportunity to serve the caller), and businesses significantly overestimate how long a caller is willing to hang on, and underestimating a caller’s tendency to hang up.

Professionals and executives are the least likely to wait on hold. Among those ages 55 to 64 with incomes of at least $75,000 who live in cities, half of the women said they would not wait, and two-thirds of men said they would wait up to one minute. More precisely predicting caller behavior can help businesses design better on hold experiences going forward as well as fine-tune those already in place; particularly important when companies plan changes in their business or major marketing promotions that produce a surge of calls.

“It’s no use spending millions on advertising a new product, service or event if you can’t keep the caller hanging on long enough to serve them. “Knowing when a person decides to hang up or hang on is vital to streamlining operations, minimizing caller frustration and maximizing each customer service encounter,” says Su, an expert in operations management. Deploying an on-hold message can mitigate frustration and keep callers on the line longer. A North American Telecom survey showed callers will stay on the line up to 3 minutes longer with an on-hold message. Models  show that such improvements do indeed make a difference in whether people decide to hang up or hang on,” concludes Su.

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