Most customers waiting on hold can recite them by memory: the repeating recorded messages on almost every phone system of every company. Sometimes it even seems like it’s the same voice.
Perhaps you’ve heard one or more of these recently:
Waiting on hold is one of the most common customer pain points, as it has been for years. And due to short staffing across many industries, hold times seem to be on the rise. So why don’t companies give any thought to making the wait-on-hold experience more tolerable?
Every time a company communicates with a customer, there is an opportunity for an experience. That’s why I snap so many pictures of great signs at restaurants, hotels and retail locations to use in keynote presentations. It’s also why welcome letters, email and text alerts, website home pages, invoices, legal disclaimers, customer service agent scripts, social media posts, and many others are so important to enhancing an otherwise stagnant customer experience.
But for some reason, companies aren’t innovating around waiting on hold. Instead, customers hear the exact same language at almost every company they call.
Has any customer in the history of customer service really felt like their call was important to the company they were calling as they are sitting on hold? If it really was that important, wouldn’t the company be answering?
And how is it that every single company in the world has changed their menu options recently?
What’s worse is that these messages get repeated over and over, just in case the customer missed them the first dozen times.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
When Charles Schwab customers are placed on hold, they hear a stock market news report that’s actually interesting and useful. It’s also obviously relevant to Schwab’s business. It helps pass the time with valuable information instead of incessantly repeating useless messages.
UberConference, a conference all system, decided it wanted to do something different and create a unique experience while people waited for conference calls to begin.
A song called “I’m On Hold” plays while a guy strums on his guitar and sings lyrics about waiting on hold for a conference call to start. (You can hear the entire song on YouTube. It is definitely worth a listen.)
UberConference took an ordinary, unremarkable experience—waiting on hold—and made it Extraordinary, which is one of the 5 steps to creating remarkable experiences that I share in my new book, The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share. The improvement is so powerful that I found myself hoping the other party would wait to join the conference call until the song was over!
So what can you do? Call your own customer service number and listen to the recorded messages. Then, if you too are using the exact same language identified above, make the decision to change it immediately. (Related: Call Listening)
Pretty much anything would be better than the same language customers hear everywhere else, but here are some ideas to get you started:
And please, since it’s the 21st century and all, stop doing the following things immediately:
Call-back options and self-service capabilities are good alternatives to waiting on hold, but if you’re telling a customer you’ll call back in several hours or they get stuck in the middle of the self-service options, expect them to be just as frustrated with the experience.
Do you have other good examples of waiting on hold experiences? Share them with me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tagging me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook!
Images by Canva.