It drives me crazy the amount of time I sometimes have to spend on the phone. It doesn’t seem to matter what organisation I call these days, I inevitably end up being put on hold … and sometimes for what seems like forever! I’ve spent so long in some phone queues that I’ve seriously wondered if I’ll age another year before the call gets answered. And, while I know that’s not true, I do enjoy the occasional moment of self-pity and melodrama.
I can’t decide whether it’s the time wasted that frustrates me the most or having to listen to some pretty awful music or annoying messages. Either way, I hate it with a passion, so here are a couple of ideas that might help reduce the amount of time you spend in a phone queue:
- Start by finding out the opening and closing times for the organisation you need to ring and plan when to call. Some will have 24 hour call centres, so any calls made late at night might get answered quicker. Other businesses may be open for extended hours e.g. 8.00 am to 8.00pm, so don’t always assume you can only make calls between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm. If you call outside what people typically think are the standard opening hours, you will have a better chance of not sitting for too long an a phone queue. Recently Miss 25 needed to call her Internet provider. She tried a couple of times throughout the day but was greeted by recorded messages telling her that the delay could be up to 2 hours … who’s got that kind of time to sit on the phone? She was getting more and more annoyed until I suggested she call at 7.00 am in the morning … imagine her surprise when she got straight through!
- Don’t call during peak times. For example, lunchtime will always be busy because that’s often when people make calls on lunch breaks at work.
- Try to eliminate the need to make these calls in the first place. Maybe your question could be answered with a bit of searching on the Internet or, if the matter isn’t urgent, an email or letter might get the results you need.
- Take advantage of “call back” services, if they are available. Some organisations will give you an option to leave your contact details i.e. name and phone number and an operator will call you back usually within a certain time frame. This is a great option because it allows you to get on with other things.
- If you have to make a particular call, see if you can convince one of the kids to do the “holding on” part for you … it might even be worth a small incentive (okay, who am I kidding … let’s call it a bribe). Miss 22 is often willing to hold for me so I can get other things done and will just bring me the phone once the operator has answered.
- Change your approach and the way you think and feel about being on hold. You could either consider it a total waste of time or you could change your thinking and use the time as an chance to get comfy, put your feet up and slow your hectic pace to take some time out from rushing around.
- If you have handsfree in the car, consider making some calls while you’re out and about or waiting in the school carpark. That’s the beauty of multi-tasking but do make sure you don’t get distracted and that road safety is your number one priority. It won’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid being put on hold but at least you’ll feel less like you’re losing valuable time. Before trying this option, make sure your mobile phone plan has sufficient credit so you don’t run up a huge bill by being on hold for a long time.
- If you don’t already have a cordless phone, consider investing in one … at least then if you do get caught on hold, you’re not stuck in one spot unable to move. A cordless phone will at least allow you to move around the house and maybe even complete small, simple tasks and if you buy one with a handsfree option, that’s even better. If you feel like you’re accomplishing something, you’ll be less worried about wasting time. I’ll share a list soon of some of some quick and easy tasks you can complete while you’re on the phone.
- And my final suggestion may seem quite radical but I have in the past changed businesses that I deal with based on how easy or difficult it is to access them by phone. Being left on hold for ages is as much a part of a company’s customer service as anything else and I tend to shy away from businesses that fall down in this area.
Making calls and being put on hold is unfortunately a part of life but if you’re a bit clever about when, and even if you call at all, it doesn’t need to be quite so painful. Gone are the days when I would spend ages on hold, I really try to avoid it, as I just don’t have the time.
So tell me, what’s the longest you’ve ever spent on hold before and did you reward those companies with repeat business?