By Michael Haisten
Waiting on hold to speak with a real person in a call center is a common complaint among consumers. So common that television shows and companies alike have capitalized on our collective pain by making fun of these frustrating experiences. Saturday Night Live performed the Julie skit, and Discover created its line of advertisements starring Peggy. A British study, commissioned in 2011 by the mobile network giffgaff, went so far as to indicate that waiting on hold for longer than 5 minutes and 58 seconds could actually lead to minor health problems due to increased blood pressure and anxiety.
Some companies are starting to listen to their customers, however, and are offering callbacks as an alternative to waiting on hold. Callbacks can be offered in a phone menu, website, or mobile application. I think most people and businesses would agree that a 10 minute wait time is generally a poor experience – a call center failure. But the first time I used such a service, I received a callback in exactly 10 minutes, and I thought it was a customer service breakthrough. I even told everyone at work the next day how great it was! It certainly beat the alternative of being captive to my phone line waiting on hold. It got me thinking about the fun or productive things people could be doing every day rather than waiting on hold with the companies we patronize.
Here’s my top 10:
1. Change of scenery – Go outside or to a different room – even the room so many of us have that has poor cell reception. Even if your phone has a cord or no speakerphone. Don’t feel confined to your current location. You can even drive legally, hands free.
2. Listen to the music of your choice – There’s probably a reason that The Greatest Hits of Hold Music isn’t a top seller on iTunes. 64% of giffgaff respondents said annoying music made their experience worse. Instead, hang up the phone and listen to whatever music you want – Indie Rock, Bluegrass, Reggae, Dixieland Jazz, Death Metal – whatever makes you happy.
3. Call a friend – Yes, you can talk to the real person of your choice while waiting on your callback.
4. Eat nachos – Go ahead and get your hands messy. You’re not holding a phone.
5. Get a neck massage – There’s nothing better for relieving the neck strain from your last endless hold time spent balancing the phone between your head and shoulder.
6. Work out – If waiting on hold is bad for your health, a quick work out would be the perfect converse. Nothing throws off your balance while doing yoga or running on a treadmill like holding a phone to your ear. Be honest: How many of you tried to run around the room with your hand up to your ear to see what it felt like?
7. Watch TV – It’s nearly impossible to figure out who the killer is on CSI with annoying hold music competing for your attention.
8. Household chores – Prepare a gourmet meal. Hang some new artwork. Vacuum the floors.
9. Cure cancer – Hey, the best of scientists wait on hold too.
10. Cancel service with other companies that make you wait on hold – According to the giffgaff study, 50% of respondents discouraged family and friends from using a company that kept them waiting too long while 25% of respondents canceled their service.