How to Keep Hold Times to a Minimum and Customers Happy

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No one likes to wait on hold, but there are times when a business has more callers that staff to handle those calls. You could over-staff but, you will end up having higher employee costs and lower productivity. You could let the callers wait but, eventually callers will hang up and find another company to do business with. Neither of those options would be good for the bottom line.

I propose two steps to being more prepared to handle those busy times and to be more efficient at the same time.

1 – Use a staffing calculator (Erlang-C is commonly used) there is a free one here. This will help you calculate the average number of employees needed to keep your average hold time to a minimum. Every customer and business has a different tolerance for hold time but most studies show that customers are willing to wait for about 18 seconds (the equivalent of about 3 rings) with much of an impact on customer service and retention. You will need your average call time (in seconds), average calls you handle per hour, and what you would like your average hold time (in seconds) to be. You can experiment with different scenarios with your business.

2- Hire an Answering service for overflow and ask your telephone provider to install “no answer” call forwarding. This will allow you to maintain the most efficient staffing levels, but when you have un-expected influx in call volume your callers will not have to wait for answer.
Here is how it works. Any time a customer calls and your office is on the phone and the line is busy or you phone ring more that 3-4 times (you set the number) the call is rerouted to the answering service. The Customer Service rep at the answering service answers the phone in your company name and performs the basic functions that a live receptionist would. They can take appointments, messages, provide customer service support, or pass the call to sales person, you decide.

What does an answering service cost? Most answering services have starter packages that start out at $3-$4 per day. Compare that to a full time employee that can cost more $100 per day. Consider the cost of lost business and cost is not the real issue but, quality.

The answer to the quality issue, is my next article.

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