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Hold message on phone: ...Thank you for continuing to hold. Your call is important to us. Not so important that we’d actually hire enough staff to answer it promptly, but definitely important-ish.

Your call is “important” to us

Your call is “important” to us published on 1 Comment on Your call is “important” to us

Here are a few handy translations for the things companies tell you while you’re on hold with them.

“Owing to a larger-than-normal call volume…”

Oh, my word, there are so many people calling us just before the Christmas shipping deadline! We couldn’t possibly have anticipated this, just as we couldn’t have anticipated it when it happened exactly the same way at exactly the same time for the past seven years.

“For answers to many commonly-asked questions, visit our website at…”

We’d so much rather pay for a few hits on our server than for a human being to talk to you.

“Please listen carefully, as our options have changed.”

Too many people had figured out they could get through to someone by pressing zero.

“Please remain on the line to maintain your priority sequence.”

Some psychology major figured out that “maintain your priority sequence” sounds subjectively faster than “keep your place in line.” (At least, it did five years ago. When you first started holding on this call.)

(music music music)

We hate you and want you to suffer while you wait.

(music music music) “Please continue to hold.”

Not only do we hate you and want you to suffer, we also think you don’t know how “hold” works.

(an audio ad for the company)

We’ve somehow decided that a customer who’s feeling frustrated and resentful after half an hour on hold will be receptive to a sales pitch. Hey, you never know!

“Your call is important to us.”

Just keep telling yourself that.

But every once in a while, there’s also a…

“If you would like to leave a call-back number where we can reach you…”

…which translates to, “We get it. Your time matters to you. So we invested a little capital in a call-back system that will free up a phone line at our end, and stop wasting time on yours.” Hold that company tight and never let them go.

1 Comment

As someone who has spent a career in contact center planning I thought I would give you some actual truths about these. Yes some of this criticism is valid, some is just ignorant.
“Owing to a larger-than-normal call volume…” – generally this message is automatically played once hold times reach a threshold – so it may be true, or volume may not be the cause. The facetious translation you give only looks at part of the picture. Yes volume is seasonal, and those seasonal trends can be easily identified. But responding to them is not always that easy. Just because you need 20% more staff at Christmas does not mean you automatically have 20% more capacity to host them. It doesn’t mean those people are readily available to be hired. Absenteeism often spikes at these times, so it also means you are hiring extra just to cover for that. Finally, depending upon the type of call, training these extra 20% is not always possible – then we simply get angry customers telling us the staff were useless.
When you hear this it may be due to higher than expected call volume due to an outage, higher than predicted demand for a new product or special offer, or even something as uncontrollable as the weather. It also may be due to low attendance due to a virus running around, bad weather or the Packers making the playoffs. Fine – yes, contact center planning should always be perfect and all calls should be answered in short times – but we do live in the real world and not everything always goes to plan. A variance in attendance or call volume of just 10% can lead to tripling the wait time – it is not always simply because a company is too cheap to hire more agents.
” We’d so much rather pay for a few hits on our server than for a human being to talk to you.” – well Duh! Of course a company will try to reduce its costs where it can – that is why it has a website. Offering alternative channels for finding information is a valid way to help customers – nobody said it would apply to everyone, or is forcing you to do it.
“Too many people had figured out they could get through to someone by pressing zero”
Actually the pressing 0 thing is largely a myth. Some Interactive Voice Response systems do default to a general services line if you press 0 but most do not. Ask yourself this – why is the company getting you to press buttons in the first place? The answer is to get an idea what you are after and route the call to the best trained person to deal with it. Billing calls go to billing teams, technical calls go to technical teams. Yes – some IVRs are clumsy, overly long, and badly designed – but most are simply determining how best to route a call – bypassing it just leads to you speaking to the wrong person and having your call transferred – something else people love to complain about.
“Your call is important to us…”
I have no idea why people would use this line – as seems to be the gist of this article it is counterproductive. Research actually shows that when waiting people measure time in whatever quantum units are available. If you constantly repeat that message, customers count how often they hear it, and actually think they have been waiting longer. Better to give customers the choice of the callback option (this is now a relatively common option due to the emergence of cloud based, easily scalable and upgradable telephony platforms) or simply do what you can to keep the customer entertained.
But believe me – keeping customers on hold longer is not part of the overall plan. Longer wait times actually cost firms money. Angry customers are less likely to buy again, if calls are always queueing the agents get burnt out and absenteeism and attrition increase, customers who have waited longer tend to take longer on the phone once they are answered. None of these saves a company money. It may be a failure in the plan (and yes – contact center planning is often done badly) or something beyond anyone’s control – but it is not deliberate, and it is certainly not personal and directed at you.

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