How to Handle Telephone Hold Times in Your Business

How to Handle Telephone Hold Times in Your Business
By Rik LaSpisa

Prior to the 1950’s, making a phone call without the assistance of an operator was unheard of. In order to make a call you had to wait on hold until an operator connected you to your party. After the introduction of the North American Numbering Plan in the United States, and similar systems in Europe, we have been able to direct dial anyone we wish to call.

Despite this, waiting on hold is still very much a part of our lives. Time magazine reports that a survey commissioned by TalkTo found that Americans spend 13 hours per year on hold. Being on hold is now an unwelcome interruption during most customer service calls. Here are some considerations to ensure your customers remain on the line.

Live Answer vs Auto Attendant

Ideally, you will answers all calls live, however, not every business can do this. If you use an auto attendant, make sure your customers can reach a person after one or two menus. This will improve their opinion of your customer service.

Music on Hold

Hold music has the benefit of easing a customer’s frustration while also making their wait-time seem shorter. Pick hold music that reflects your brand, is relatable to your customers, and is updated regularly. Be aware that you cannot use a radio station or streaming music service for your hold music. You will be required to comply with ASCAP regulations and possibly pay licensing fees. Your phone system may come with pre-programmed hold music, however music that is too simple and generic may not keep your customers on the line.

Messages on Hold

Hold messages offer you an opportunity to educate new and existing customers about products, services, and specials. Surveys have shown that 88% of callers prefer messages on hold to any other hold option, with 16–20% of those callers making a purchase based on those messages. Utilizing hold messages can be appropriate for any business that provides goods or services to customers at their home or business, in store, through phone orders, or online. You can arrange to have custom messages on hold created for your business through your phone system provider.

What not to do

Having a hold strategy is important, but some businesses place their customers on hold to complete silence. According to recent surveys, 55% of callers placed on a silent hold hung up. You should also avoid using the ubiquitous “your call is important to us” message. This will challenge your credibility if customers experience long hold times. Finally, don’t interrupt your music on hold with messages. If you wish to use a combination of messages and music, make sure your messages play during a transition.

Remember, being kept on hold is an annoying inconvenience for customers. Whether you need to look up information related to their account, toggle between another call, or transfer them to another party, try to keep their time on hold as brief and productive as possible.

Rik LaSpisa Speros

Rik LaSpisa is the Director of Sales at Speros, a full-service technology company headquartered in Savannah. For more information, please visit

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