I’ve Been Holding “FOREVER”

By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Expert, Keynote Speaker, President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service
How many times have you called a company and asked, “Please put me on hold.” Right! My bet is ZERO.

And how many times have you been told “Hang on a second.” Right. My bet is a lot.

For many years being put on hold remained the #1 frustration of the American public. Then a few years ago, dear old “automated attendant” crossed the finish line to become the #1 frustration.

Note to self: Both are an irritant to the public.

The other day I had an email from a client who asked: “Hi Nancy, I wanted to share a frustration with you. I’m hoping you can educate those you communicate with. When someone has to hold for an extended length of time for you, don’t say, “Yes, we are extremely busy.” Apologize please! Telephone Skills are still so very important.

So here’s a few tips to make life a bit easier on both sides in all Communication skills, on the phone or in person.

When you put someone on hold:

* Let them know you’ll get the information they need.

* Ask them if they’re able to hold.

* Let them know what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be going.

* Give an estimated time you’ll be away from the phone.

* Remember, “Hang on a second” is a big fat fib.

Try this tip:

Mr. Smith,

State a positive: I can get you the information you need.

Tell the truth: It’ll take me a few minutes as the information you need is on another computer (with Mr. Jones, I need to call Joe, or whatever).

Ask: If you’re able to hold, I’ll get that for you.

Then when you do come back to the phone, here’s a forgotten technique:

Thank them for holding! I have the information you need.

Now, here’s what my client was referring to, I believe.

VARIATION: When you put someone on hold and you KNOW it’s going to take longer than you care to have someone on hold, TELL THEM THAT!

Mr. Smith,

THE TRUTH: The information, you need will take me about 15 or 20 minutes to get. I don’t want to put you on hold that long; let me have a number so I can call you back either later today or tomorrow. Which is better for you?

And more to the point of the email from my client, when you do have to place someone on hold for a length of time, DON’T say, “We’re very busy.

First of all, everyone is busy.

Second, being busy is not an excuse to be rude.

And thirdly, busy is a good thing.

You can say: “This is a rather hectic time of day. Would you like to hold? It may be longer than normal. Or would you prefer to try later? (When and where possible, if you can be the one to call the customer back, that’s the best. But we all know many call centers, etc. are unable to do that.)

It’s the old not what you say, but how you say it. As wordsmiths at Telephone Doctor, we know phrasing sentences so they don’t offend is a key component to success.

Share away. And see our 5 Frustrating Voice Mail/Cell Phone Phrases video cast. Are they on your cell phone?

Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor


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Nancy Friedman, customer service keynote speaker, is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training and a featured speaker at franchise, association, and corporate meetings around the world. A popular TV guest, she appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, as well as hundreds of other radio, television and print outlets around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The author of 9 books on her chosen topics, Nancy helps corporate America improve their communications with their customers & co-workers. You can see her 9 books here. For more information, log on to Nancy Friedman's website www.nancyfriedman.com or call (314) 291-1012. Oh yeah you can email her at nancyf@telephonedoctor.com. Nancy is a recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame Award - St. Louis Small Business Monthly