A recent survey found that more than 85 per cent of people are put on hold whenever they call a business, and more than half of consumers spend 10-20 minutes every week on hold. This amounts to a staggering 13 hours per year and almost 43 days on hold in a lifetime!

Unsurprisingly, 58 per cent feel frustrated about being put on hold whenever they call businesses. Research released this week by NewVoiceMedia found that half of us are so put off calling a business for fear of being kept on hold, we’ll switch to a competitor without even attempting to resolve a problem.

Quite simply, a queue exists because the number of callers is greater than the number of available advisors. It reminds us of a cartoon that stated, ‘Your call is important to us, just not important enough for us to hire more people!’

The faster a call is answered, the more the customer feels appreciated, increasing the likelihood that he or she will recommend your business to other people. So here are some suggestions for going to war on queues!

Think profit centre not contact centre

If every caller is seen as a cost to the business then it makes sense to answer your calls with the minimum number of people. But when businesses understand that customer service is a competitive differentiator, they happily ensure the right number of advisors are available and allow them to comfortably stay on a call until the customer is truly happy.

Offer self-serve for simple queries

IVRs get a bad name, but really it’s poorly implemented IVRs that people hate. If you want to confirm that a package has been shipped or check a balance on an account, many people are happy to self-serve and avoid the need to speak to an advisor.

Direct callers to the right advisor first time

Instead of answering your callers and then finding out what they need, use the information you already hold on them in Salesforce to offer personalised options that get them to someone that can help them. By reducing transfers you free up advisors to deal with new callers.

Consolidate offices as virtual contact centres

If you have more than one site that takes calls, then make sure they are connected. It’s painful to know that calls are queuing in one contact centre when advisors are available in another.

Use other employees in emergencies

As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Despite your best workforce planning, an ash cloud or flood can have calls piling up. Don’t accept this as ‘just a bad day’, get calls routed to employees outside of your contact centre. Even if the person that answers is unable to fully resolve an issue, it is preferable to an abandoned caller going on to tweet about being #onhold.