Part One in this series dealt with why all answering services must sometimes place people on hold and provided some information on our stats in this regard. In this second part, we’ll discuss the two different systems live answering services use for putting callers on hold.
The common approach to putting people on hold is to answer all incoming calls with a live person. That sounds great, right? It certainly looks good on marketing material.
The problem with this approach is that — if you are putting people on hold, it’s because you’re busy with other callers. That means for that one new call, you have to put TWO people on hold. You have to ask the current caller to hold, then you have to go answer the incoming call, ask them to hold, then go back to the original caller and say “I’m sorry to keep you waiting Mrs. Smith, where were we?”. What happens if the operator gets yet another call before she has finished with Mrs. Smith? Well, she will to put her on hold AGAIN.
There are three problems with this approach. First, it is very inefficient. Every new calls slows that operator down because she has to interrupt her current call, ask the other caller to hold, then come back to the first call, thank her for waiting, and then try to pick up where she left off. This extra work just slows things down further, and that means people are waiting on hold longer.
The second problem is that the switching back and forth makes errors much more likely. Every time the operator puts someone on hold, answers another call, puts them on hold and switches back to the original caller…. It is an opportunity to make a mistake (e.g., hang up on someone, or take a message on the wrong account). This system is therefore much more prone to errors.
The final problem with this method is that it makes callers feel like the operator is rushed and not paying attention to their needs. Even when they start speaking with an operator, they may be placed on hold two or three times.
If only there were a system that was more efficient, less prone to errors, and allowed the operators to give their full attention to whomever they were speaking with! Of course, there is, and that is the subject of Part Three, where we’ll describe how we handle this situation.