You Probably Spent 13 Hours on Hold Last Year

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Add this factoid to the many others concerning the poor state of customer service, right alongside the one about how we collectively lose $38 billion annually waiting around for the cable guy to show up.

According to a new poll, most American consumers (53%) say that they spend 10 to 20 minutes on hold each and every week. That 15 minutes or so per week adds up to 780 minutes per year—or 13 hours annually—spent waiting for a company that swears via automated message “we care about your business” to answer the darn phone.

The survey, commissioned by text-message service TalkTo, also states that 86% of consumers report being put on hold every time they call a business, and that 48% believe the customer service representatives who answer phone calls are not helpful. The data is similar to that of previous polls indicating, for instance, that 60% of consumers who call to complain get nothing, and that 71% are “tremendously annoyed” when they can’t get a live customer service agent on the phone.

(MORE: Could 2013 Be the Year That Customer Service Gets Better?)

You’d think that the latest survey results would serve as yet another rallying call for improved customer help lines, including shorter wait times and more, you know, actual help. Instead, the survey’s sponsor points to a rather self-serving solution, claiming that texting businesses with service requests makes more sense than dialing up and waiting.

“This research shows how poorly the phone performs as a customer-service channel,” Stuart Levinson, CEO of TalkTo, an app that lets consumers text businesses, said via press release. “Everyone’s calling less and texting more. It’s time for businesses to catch up with how customers want to interact with them.”

We can all agree that businesses could—and should—get a lot better at interacting with customers. But are people really texting more? Data gathered at the end of 2012 shows just the opposite, that the average American’s monthly text total recently declined for the first time ever.

Compared to waiting on hold on the phone, sending off a text obviously saves time. But does doing so result in superior, or at least comparable, results for the customer? We don’t really know. In a 2011 Consumer Reports study on the state of customer service, calling was named the favored mode for seeking assistance, with 20% picking it as the best option. In second place was the in-person visit with customer service, preferred by 16%. Only 2% favored live chat, and less than that pointed to e-mail—which is probably the closest parallel to using the text message for customer service help.

(MORE: OMG! Traditional Text Messaging Is on the Decline)

The usual roundups of tips for getting better customer service often suggest the use of Twitter and Facebook because of how quickly word can spread via social networks—and how bad for business it would be if an instance of horrendous customer service goes viral. By contrast, the idea of text messaging for better customer service seems to be spread mostly by companies in the business of facilitating text messages.

In any event, 13 hours on hold annually!?! That’s almost enough to try anything.

5 comments
ShannonMugrage
ShannonMugrage

Apparently they did not ask anyone that has ever waited on hold for the VA. I have literally spent 1-2 hours on hold and you have to wait because of the new system. If there are no openings, the system will tell you to call back. When you call back and get put on hold, you have to wait and it is extremely frustrating. 

StaceyA
StaceyA

Try being in the medical billling business. I'm on hold a minimum of 13 per MONTH. I'm sick of calling an insurance and having someone named "Phillip" talking about our medical issues. With unemployment in our country where it is I say give me some Americans to answer the phones. That would lower my blood pressure and feed more families in our own country.

paullubbock
paullubbock

Customer service isn't rocket science as big business would have you believe.  They don't care about you once you've singed the contract or subscription or they wouldn't have their customer service outsourced to some foreign country that has people you can't even understand on the other end.  If a business really cared, they would have customer service representatives equal to whatever percentage of customers they serviced in their area locally.  Don't complain just drop them.  Nothing speaks louder than your dollar.  People need to realize they have the power and should not be afraid or lazy about dropping the service that is making your life miserable.

DavePhillips
DavePhillips

@paullubbockThe other issue is that these companies now have a near monopoly power over consumer choices.  There should be double the number of cell phone carriers, high-speed internet providers, etc all competing for our dollar - but they keep merging together. We learned nothing from breaking up AT&T. Guaranteed where there are fewer choices people are on hold for much longer periods, and are less satisfied with their service.  To me Comcast is the biggest offender of all.