To Have and to Hold…The Delay Experience

By Kathleen Peterson, PowerHouse Consulting, Inc.

When you have voice calls you have HOLD! Workforce Management (WFM) teams are expert at measuring hold time at the queue and agent level. But are you responsible for the queue/hold “delay experience?” When callers are put on hold it is done via the telephone ACD system. This typically is overseen by another department. Whether IT/IS/Telecom or another department, it isn’t likely the Contact Center.

The WFM team needs to nurture a working relationship with those who oversee the ACD and find a way to contribute to the design and configuration of the “delay experience.” They must work together to remove “friction” from hold treatments that may contribute to caller frustration and higher abandon.

Consider the recommendations below:

  • Eliminate conflicting and competing delay announcements. For example, if Marketing messaging is used, “sorry for the delay” scripts are typically included. It is completely unnecessary to interrupt that with another message; the caller knows very well that they are still on hold. Hence, there is no need for ACD-driven delay announcements when using Marketing messaging.
  • Stop repeating the hold announcement every 20 or 30 seconds. It is irritating and my guess is that it makes hold feel longer and may contribute to abandons. Consider a one-delay announcement at 60 seconds, announcing a return to music and having no further interruptions.
  • Stop looping marketing messages; go to music at five minutes.
  • Make sure that any custom Marketing messages are current. If not, callers notice and mention it. This adds to call duration.

You should also be careful when offering queue stats to callers if you are afraid of spikes in abandons. Many callers choose to try again later if the estimated delay time is greater than the time they are willing to spend at that moment. They often abandon happily and are glad to have been informed. (If the delay informs the caller that they are the 32nd call in queue, and they don’t know you have 300 agents, abandons may spike.)

The callback option is used successfully by many Contact Centers, making even lengthy delays a bit more tolerable. However, it does not solve staffing problems. Lengthy delays must be evaluated in order to be eliminated. Callbacks are best offered as a convenience to callers, not as a solution to a staffing problem.

Agent hold is another WFM target for evaluation. Hold time at the agent level is an indicator of knowledge, procedure, permissions, or escalations. It is important that WFM deciphers trends to identify global and center-wide factors and take steps to improve processes and tools. WFM must also collaborate with Training and Quality to impact overall and individual performance.

When you monitor where your callers are abandoning, you may find that the “delay experience” is a contributor. Monitor why your agents are using hold; the results are a key contributor to ongoing improvements in the Contact Center.

Check in on the customer “delay” experience so you may “have and hold” to your experience objectives right from the start!

Founder and Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting, Kathleen Peterson is also an acclaimed Call Center consultant and recognized industry visionary. Kathleen offers a refreshing and sometimes challenging philosophy to positioning the Call Center as the true lifeline of the enterprise – believing that vision, brand, leadership, and execution combine to deliver a powerful Customer Experience. She may be reached at Go to for more information.