Call Center

Updated On: Apr 1, 2024

What is Call Center Hold Time, and 10 Ways to Reduce it?

Reading-Time 11 Min

Call Center Hold Time

If you have to wait a minute to read this blog, or even two, you will probably get frustrated. Or maybe even give up completely. This is how annoying hold times in call center are for the caller. 

When asked the top ways customers think customer service could improve, 40 percent of customers answered, “take care of my needs more quickly.” Hold times are a nuisance, but it is here to stay. Even though you can not eliminate it completely, you can definitely reduce it.

So read on to find helpful ways to reduce call center hold time.

What is the Average Hold Time?

The average hold time in the call center is the amount of time a customer spends waiting on the phone before they can speak to an agent. It is the time that customers spend listening to the hold music and maybe even cursing the company.

Hold time includes the time spent in a queue, the time the agent’s phone is ringing, and any time when the customer is put on hold during the call, whether they are waiting for the same agent or a different one. However, it does not include the time the customer spends interacting with the interactive voice response (IVR) menu.

Is it Important for Your Business to Measure Average Hold Time?

To answer simply, yes.

Customers’ patience wears thin when they have to go through long hold times. This can have lasting consequences, as dissatisfied customers are more likely to drop calls or perhaps even the brand.

Let’s understand why measuring the hold time is absolutely essential for your business:

Improves Customer Experience

When your customers don’t have to wait years to get their issues resolved, it makes for a good experience. By measuring and managing hold times, you can enhance the overall customer experience and increase and maintain their loyalty.

Identifies Operational Bottlenecks 

Long hold times can be a sign of operational problems within the call center. Monitoring it helps pinpoint operational issues within your business, like a lack of staff or an inefficient knowledge base.

Identifying these bottlenecks is the first step in addressing and rectifying them for smoother operations.

Gives a Competitive Advantage

A business that can efficiently manage hold times gains a competitive edge in the industry. Shorter hold times can set you apart from competitors, attracting and retaining more customers who appreciate a more responsive and efficient service.

What Causes High Call Centers Hold Time?

Several factors contribute to extended call center hold times, including:

Lack of Self-Service Options: Whenever a customer faces some issue, they try to fix it themselves. But when the solution is not readily available, the customer must call the customer service executive. This simply adds to high call volume and, hence, the hold time.

Inefficient Call Routing: If your call routing system isn’t optimized to match the callers with the most suitable agents, it can result in longer wait times. Inefficient call routing can frustrate customers and reduce overall service quality.

Long Handling Times: When agents spend an excessive amount of time on a single call due to complex issues, inadequate training, or lack of resources, it reduces the call center’s capacity to handle incoming calls promptly. This in turn causes high hold times and subpar customer experience.

How to Calculate Average Hold Time in Call Center?

Average hold time is a key performance indicator that directly measures the efficiency and effectiveness of your call center operations.

To calculate it, you will need,

Total hold time for all calls

Total number of calls

And then you can use the formula:

Average Hold Time Formula

For example, if your call center had a total hold time of 10,000 seconds and received 1,000 calls, your average hold time would be 10 seconds.

Regularly tracking Average hold time lets you gain insight into how well your teams deliver timely customer service.

1. Implement a Knowledge Management System

A knowledge management system allows your business to store, manage, and share knowledge effectively. It is a single source of truth to ensure seamless knowledge experiences among you, your teams, and your customers.

By implementing knowledge management software in your call center, agents get guided knowledge and the next best steps to take. Readily access to guided and contextual knowledge eliminates the inordinate amounts of time spent looking for relevant information, and thus the average hold time.

2. Streamline Call Routing

Streamline call routing involves efficiently and quickly directing incoming calls to the right agents or departments. An outdated or poorly designed routing technique can cause misdirected calls, causing longer wait times for customers.

This can be worked upon by consistently optimizing agent productivity as well as your call routing system.

3. Provide Customers with a Callback Option

A callback option is perfect for anybody leading a busy life today. So, implementing it in your call center should be a no-brainer. Having said that, a callback will only enhance your customer service quality if you follow through with it. 

If there is a consistent lag in the scheduled callback, it can actually cause more harm than good to the brand reputation.

4. Enable Omnichannel Communication

As mentioned earlier, no customers like to call if they can sort things out otherwise, which makes omnichannel communication the perfect way to cater to modern customers. 

Ensure there is a self-service channel and encourage customers to use those for basic problems. Options such as self-service channels, chatbots, and email to contact customer service can greatly improve the customer experience with the brand. 

Omnichannel can significantly reduce the hold times given they are low effort and  highly effective in answering the customers and escalating issues when unable to resolve them.

5. Deploy an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System

Adopting a customer-friendly IVR system could be a game changer. The IVR system is an automated technology that communicates with callers through pre-recorded voice and keypad selection. 

Through the selection process, you can gather enough initial information from the customer to direct them to the right agent or department. This ensures that the customer has landed with the right person, reducing the need to switch departments and, therefore, wait times.

6. Regularly Review Performance Metrics

Regularly track and review metrics like average speed of answer (ASA) and average handling time (AHT) to identify areas of improvement. Deploying the best technology won’t be enough unless you realize where the performance is lacking and how to improve it. 

You can assess the impact of implemented strategies through consistent reviews, thereby reducing call hold times and delivering more efficient customer service.

7. Implement AI-powered Self-Service Tools

AI-powered tools such as IVR systems and chatbots provide instant responses to common customer inquiries, offering 24/7 availability and efficiently routing calls.  Implementing a knowledge base also encourages the customer to use them. These technologies streamline customer interactions, allowing agents to focus on more complex issues. 

8. Optimize the Staff

Use historical call data to schedule agents during peak call times and use workforce management software to predict call volumes and schedule agents accordingly. This helps call centers meet customer demand more effectively and reduce wait times.

9. Provide Agents with Adequate Training

The power of good training is often underestimated. Well-trained agents can handle customer inquiries more efficiently, which not only impacts hold times but also customer experience.

Training prepares agents with the knowledge and skills needed to resolve issues promptly and accurately, minimizing the need for lengthy consultations or escalations.

10. Record and Review Calls

Recording and reviewing calls allow supervisors to assess agent performance, identify areas for improvement, and detect common issues or bottlenecks leading to extended hold times. 

By analyzing these recorded interactions, you can also develop targeted training programs and implement more efficient call-routing strategies.

How Knowmax Helps Reduce your Call Center Hold Times?

A robust knowledge base software acts like a bible for agents to quickly and confidently handle all customer calls.

Knowmax empowers your agents with next best action steps to solve customer problems, eliminating the need for endless information search and dependence on supervisors and colleagues for guidance.

Additionally, Knowmax empowers your agents with visual how-to guides, articles, and FAQs that offer clear and concise solutions, significantly reducing search times and, as a result, minimizing hold times

There is more on how Knowmax can help you improve your CX. To learn more, talk to one of our KM experts today!

Nitin Saxena

Sr. Vice President

Nitin has 25 years of experience working at companies like HP and Mphasis. For more than 14 years, he has been a key figure at KocharTech (Knowmax's parent company), skillfully navigating operations, training, and quality management responsibilities across international and domestic sectors. Currently, he oversees Business Operations at Maxicus.

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