How patient are customers when it comes to waiting on hold?

Posted by Rachel Brink on Jul 8, 2015 11:17:40 AM

Despite the fact that speed is consistently ranked the number one factor to a great customer experience, and alternative channels tend to offer more immediate assistance than phone (self-service, chat, etc.), 79% consumers still prefer voice based service. And while none would argue against the fact that consumers prefer to be helped quickly when seeking support via the telephone, recent studies suggest they don’t mind waiting on-hold as much as many would assume. In fact, according to a recent PH Media poll of over 2,000 Americans, more than 55% of callers were okay with waiting on hold for more than a minute. The results varied based on region, and can be broken down as follows:

  • U.S. Average: 55%
  • Northeast: 57%
  • West: 56%
  • South and Midwest: 53%
  • United Kingdom: 45%


The vast majority (69%) of consumers say that their questions are only fully addressed over the phone. So while other channels may offer customers faster response times, the quality might not be on par with traditional phone-based services -- a fact which may help businesses understand why the majority of customers are still willing to wait on hold for at least a minute.

How should businesses proceed?

Knowing that consumers are relatively patient when it comes to receiving live assistance, businesses should look to make improvements in call handling practices rather than aim to answer all calls within a matter of seconds. By utilizing advanced IVR, ACD, and Skills-Based Routing tools, businesses can more efficiently handle incoming calls by collecting client information prior to the interaction, “buying” them more time while giving themselves the opportunity to route customers to the most appropriate agent. This can also help avoid call transferring as well as lengthy holds which 26% of consumers commonly experienced but clearly despise.

How long is too long?

But while consumers may be relatively patient when it comes to waiting on hold for live assistance, there is a limit to how long. According to a recent American Express survey, consumers will wait up to twelve minutes for live-assistance before reaching their “boiling point”. How often does this happen? An astounding 69% of the time! So while a little over half of consumers are somewhat patient, the clock is always still ticking. 

What if this is not feasible?

For those businesses that experience high call volumes and often cannot address calls in a timely manner, “call-back” options can be a viable solution, allowing customers to hang up and still remain in the queue. As a matter of fact, 75% of customers think the option of a “call-back” is “highly appealing”, and 32% of contact centers experience fewer abandoned calls after adding call-backs to their operational workflows. While this might not be necessary or feasible for every business, it is certainly something to consider.


Customers do not dislike waiting on-hold as much as many would assume, especially if the live interaction results in a high-quality and satisfactory experience. As a result, businesses can afford to focus more of their attention on efficient call handling processes rather than falling victim to the need to answer all calls urgently without regard to overall quality. There are, however, limits to how long a customer is willing to wait on-hold, something businesses should remain mindful of when implementing any inbound call strategy. And while a business might not have the resources in place to immediately handle every customer call, there are processes and procedures they can follow to mitigate the risk of frustrating customers and losing business, to ensure every interaction is as seamless as possible. At the end of the day, clients will gladly stay on hold for the right service—just make it worth the wait.

 Want to enhance your business' call handling processes


Topics: inbound contact center, inbound calls, call handling procedures, call-back

Rachel Brink

Written by Rachel Brink

Rachel Brink is the Marketing Manager at 3CLogic with over four years of experience in sales and customer service. In her role, she routinely shares best practices regarding how to streamline business communications and enhance the customer experience through innovative technologies and processes.

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