Admit it, it’s happened to you – you phone the service department of a company with a question, to get information about a repair or to make an appointment.
And you’re greeted by a phone recording that tells you all the operators are busy. It then insults your intelligence by telling you how much they value your call, while placing you on hold for 25 minutes, playing the worst canned Christmas music in the history of recorded devices.
And so you sit, fuming, afraid to hang up for fear of losing your place in line, while the same songs drone on and on and a cheerful voice reminds you you’re appreciated – while you’re sure they’re proving just the opposite.
What can you do? You’ll probably inevitably be put on hold on some occasions this season, as call volumes flood in and firms save money by not hiring enough operators.
But according to one expert, there are a few things you can do to even your odds of speeding up the process.
Oscar Alban runs Witness Systems, a company that creates call centre monitoring software.
He’s found a few timesavers that could work for you.
Beware of when you call
As in life, timing is everything. Call centres tend to be busiest on Monday, so try and choose another day. Things slow down a bit Wednesday through Friday, so hang on until then.
Don’t call after traditional business hours, even if the lines are open late. You’re liable to wind up with a more inexperienced worker who will take longer to get to your call.
You can save time for both you and the representative by having everything you might need at your fingertips – account numbers, purchase orders, dates, even the serial number of the product you’re calling about.
Get a name
Don’t hang up without finding out who you were talking to and get a confirmation number. Most centres log all calls with a specific number so they can look up your case file if you get back to them. Having those digits handy will save precious minutes the next time you dial.
Be smart and sneaky
This one may not always work, but it’s worth a try. Chances are if you dial a service centre, you’ll first be greeted with some menu options ‘so we can better direct your call’. Alban suggests choosing a rep who speaks a language other than English – in Canada’s case, French.
Why? His assumption is that most people choose the English speaker and that the majority of operators are bilingual. You can just tell them you ‘accidentally’ picked the wrong option, jumping the long wait on the other line.
Bypass the menu
It’s not always true, but when you’re greeted by that laundry list of options at the start, pressing “0” during business hours will generally get you to a receptionist who may have a better idea of who you should speak to. And if your question is generic (like operating hours or directions) he or she may even be able to answer it for you.
Even if you’ve been on hold for an eternity, it’s important to remember the person who finally answers isn’t to blame. “Representatives really appreciate people who treat them well and will go out of their way to help them,” Alban advises.
Losing your temper can mean losing the battle. If you’re not happy with what you’re hearing, thank the operator and tell the rep you have a few more questions and would appreciate speaking with a supervisor.
Wait ’til after Christmas
The holidays are traditionally the busiest time for companies and the point in the year when many people take vacation time – leaving offices chronically short staffed. If your problem can wait until the new year, consider holding off.
It may be a lot better than holding on.