EncorePro 540 lifestyle imageAre you losing small business customers by putting them on hold? According to Accenture Strategy “Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement” 2016, 52% of consumers have reported switching providers because of poor customer service.

A few years ago, Google conducted a study to determine how long customers are willing to wait. It found that while 57.8% of callers were willing to be put on hold for up to 5 minutes. However, 32.3% were not willing to wait at all to speak to a customer service rep. Google concluded if a business keeps callers waiting longer than 5 minutes, it will lose 90% of those calls.

Unfortunately, waiting on hold is “holding up” a lot of time for customers. Conversational Receptionists, a provider of virtual receptionist and virtual assistant technology, compiled stats from a number of studies and found:

  • Executives spend 15 minutes every day–that’s 60 hours a year–on hold.  USA Today
  • 7 out of 10 business callers are placed on hold before the call is completed. Inbound/Outbound
  • In their lifetime, the average person will spend 1.2 years on hold. Woman’s World Magazine

Fortunately there are ways to avoid asking customers to wait. Among today’s tools:

Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) provides a platform to integrate desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets into one integrated data and voice network so that these devices can talk to each other. UC also provides a host of collaboration tools, including e-mail, instant messaging (IM), web and video conferencing and fax.

To avoid wait times, UC enables a small business contact center to coordinate different inbound phone numbers for inquiries. Those numbers ring to a specific desk or person so callers don’t get frustrated being routed or waiting on hold. If the person answering the call needs to confer with a colleague, they can easily collaborate via instant messaging or launch an audio or video conference.


Headsets can help avoid putting customers on hold when one of your small business team needs to get up from a desk to look for information or talk to a colleague who is somewhere else in the office.  As an example, at Rosenau Transport in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the rates department is on the phone all day long answering calls from companies requesting quotes. Remote destinations can make it particularly challenging to determine rates, so team members often need to check with someone else in the office. Yet the rates staff can’t afford to keep customers on hold too long to hunt down information. Impatient customers might hang up, costing Rosenau that shipment plus any future ones. Rosenau’s solution was to provide everyone with Planronics wireless headsets, enabling them to move freely throughout the office yet stay on a call.

Enhance Self-Service

It’s possible that not every customer inquiry needs to be answered over the phone. Make sure your website – traditional and mobile – has sufficient information to answer a number of the commonly asked product and service questions. There also should be a feature to enable a customer to send their information to your small business team and request a call. Once your team member gets on the phone, they need to be able to focus exclusively on the caller’s need. Noise-canceling headsets ensure superior audio quality  without the interruption of background noise.

No one wants to be placed on hold. But if you MUST, consider adding music, preferably pop. A study reported in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that pop music rather than instrumental “elevator” music resulted in lower caller anger. “All You Need is Love” might just do the trick.