Stuck on Hold? You’re Not Alone

By Heather Baldwin

Customers are waiting up to 25% longer before having their calls answered by contact center agents, according to a new report from Dimension Data, which surveyed more than 200 contact centers around the world. “The Merchants Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report” reveals the average caller waits 29 seconds to have a call answered, compared to 24 seconds four years ago.

Interestingly, customers are becoming resigned to this new reality. They are waiting, on average, 71 seconds before abandoning a call. This average wait increases to 91 seconds in the case of those centers serving the telecommunications sector. Tolerance levels are much lower in industries where customers have a wider choice of providers. The tolerance level for the transport sector is only 31 seconds, with customers choosing a different channel or company once this threshold is reached.

There’s even more bad news. The number of calls answered within 10 seconds by an agent has also decreased. Less than 60% of contact centers achieved this widely accepted best practice speed-to-answer standard in 2003, a decrease from more than 70% in 1999. Customers based in the United States fared the worst with only 43% of calls being answered within 10 seconds compared to 70% in Europe, 59% in Africa and 58% in Asia-Pacific.

Think you’re doing better with email responses? Think again, says Dimension. The phenomenon the company calls the World Wide Wait gets worse when customers contact companies via email. The report reveals the average time a business takes to respond to an email inquiry is 22.2 hours compared to a 9-hour wait for a callback to a voice mail message. “This prioritization of telephone communications,” say the study’s authors, “does not bode well for those multichannel centers that aim to encourage customers to use less expensive email channels.”

Andrew Briggs, CEO of Customer Interactive Solutions for Dimension Data, observes, “This trend of making customers wait longer in queues is a worrying one, and does nothing to enhance the reputation of the contact center industry. Customers appear to be bearing the brunt of budget restraints and reduced investment. This is a false economy. Businesses need to understand that the long-term impact of keeping customers waiting is that they run the risk of losing them.”

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