While we’d love to tell you never to put a phone call on hold, we know that’s not realistic. You’re busy, you’re running your business, it’s inevitable.

However, studies have shown that people actually switch brands when they’re tired of being put on hold. So we’ve compiled some dos and don’ts of putting calls on hold, so you can make sure the experience you’re giving clients and customers is a good as possible:

Do: Greet callers politely

You’re probably doing this already but it bears repeating, because people will be put off by rudeness, and if they’re also put on hold, they’re going to be even less happy. Use your standard company greeting — don’t forget your business name — thank them for their time and ask how you can help them. You can even add a little creativity in your greetings to immediately catch their attention.

Do: Ask callers if it’s ok

Customers value their time as much as we value ours. More importantly, they want to know that YOU value their time, so get their permission first before putting them on hold. Make sure to explain the reason why you need to do this and provide an estimated wait time to manage their expectations. Your choice of words here may also affect customer experience, so avoid using the word “hold” as it denotes a negative connotation. You can try using the line “I will get back to you in a moment.”

Do: Offer value during wait time

You can always put hold music on. Studies show that customers listening to background music perceive wait times to be shorter than they are. Be mindful about the type of music though (see below). A better alternative may be to put on a pre-recorded message. Something educational is a good option, or even information about a promotion or deal. 

Do: Give them alternative options

No one likes to be put on hold. If they’re busy, offering them alternatives can go a long way. Suggest either placing the caller on a brief hold, or giving them a call back. Possibly after the issue is resolved, or at a set time. You might even offer to engage with them via email, if that’s what they prefer. You’re allowing the caller to make the decision, and they’ll feel that they have a voice here and they’re not being jerked around.

Do: Check in with the caller

Studies have shown that people are put on hold, they perceive time differently. They’ll think more time has passed than actually has. To help this, check in with them every few minutes or so to give an update on the issue. They’ll feel that you’re keeping them in mind, and will appreciate your transparency.

Don’t: Place customers on hold without permission

Assuming that your callers have the patience or the luxury of time to wait on hold is a big mistake. Customers expect companies to resolve issues immediately, and if you know it would take a while, you need to get their consent first or offer alternative options to reach them.

Don’t: Interrupt the customer to place them on hold

Simply putting customers on hold is already bad enough, but interrupting them just to say this is like adding fuel to a fire. Let the customers finish explaining the issue/inquiry first before politely asking them to hold while this is resolved.

Don’t: Leave the caller on hold for more than the promised wait time

If your customers agree to wait for a certain amount of time, make sure to follow through. If the issue still isn’t resolved by the end of that time, don’t continue keeping them on hold without  informing them that it will take longer than expected, and ask them if that’s ok.

Don’t: Use a repetitive message/music as a background

Placing a message or music that repeats every minute can make the experience seem even longer than it is, something you definitely don’t want.

The experience that customers have while they’re on hold can produce a positive or negative impact on the way they view your business and brand. Making every effort to improve the experience of your customers or clients can go a long way!