The Wait Time Blues
IVR: “All of our representatives are busy; your estimated wait time is 12 minutes. Please hold, your call is important to us.”
As much as customers want to trust the system and stay put, all they keep hearing is the repetitive marketing promo message alternated with a background instrumental note and the wait feels like an eternity.
Come on, system—that was definitely NOT 12 minutes. It felt more like an hour!
Research shows that customers tend to overestimate how much time they actually spend waiting and that their service perception is strongly influenced by wait times. Knowing this, businesses spend millions of dollars on behavioral research to influence perceived wait times by changing the service environment and engaging customers during wait times.
Did you know that hotels place mirrors next to elevators just to distract the guests who are waiting for them? When people are busy looking at themselves in the mirrors, they don’t feel like they are waiting as long for their elevators. For the same reason, grocery stores place reading materials in checkout lines. As customers browse through that celebrity news bit, they perceive shorter wait times. There is significant research and experimentation that goes into understanding consumer psyche and situational behavior (Reference: The Psychology of Waiting Lines)
Wait Time Satisfaction: The Science and the Spirit
With media content getting more interactive and engaging, and as science continues to reveal more and more about the human psyche, shouldn’t this interactive spirit and this science be extended to IVR wait times as well?
How about creating something fresh and interactive? If you are a bank, why not give users the option to listen to the most current news feeds on stock market movement? If you’re a firm, give customers the option to get the latest technology trends or the option to listen to the top 10 music hits or the option to hear movie reviews for the current week—in short, spice up their wait time. If your customers have agreed to endure that gloomy 10-minute wait time just because they want to desperately speak to a live agent, reward them with a pleasant surprise.
If we can creatively generate content by which users feel so engaged during the wait that their perceived wait time is much shorter, wouldn’t that be great? Additionally, businesses reduce costs and service opinion improves!
Some systems offer an agent call
IVR: “Sorry, I see there is a long wait time. While you wait, would you like to experience our live channel? Here we offer the latest in entertainment, news and stock market updates. Rest assured, once an agent is available, you will be immediately transferred. So, would you like to hear this week’s top movie reviews by critics, facilitated by our partner?”
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