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12 February, 2005

Your call is very important to us

Quoted at This Is Broken [16/04/08:  Site dead, so link removed], Paul Roub articulates a thought that's occurred to me a few times, but which I've always forgotten immediately afterwards.

When one rings a company and joins the queue waiting to speak to an operator, muzak is played. It's easily tuned-out, but is adequate indication that one is still in the system and hasn't been cut off.
Hence, there's no need for the muzak to stop every 15-20 seconds and a voice to say 'you're still on hold'. As Paul observes, one can proceed with another task whilst half-listening for the muzak to stop, but one has to give full attention to the recorded voice, just in case it's actually the operator responding for real. The muzak is okay, whereas the voice recording is unnecessarily obtrusive.

I also often think that being put on hold is a deliberate tactic to 'soften up' callers, and sometimes wonder whether there really is a queue of other people.
If the phone was answered immediately, I'd know what to say and how best to express it, but after fifteen minutes on hold, my mind has wandered and I'm probably less in control of the ensuing conversation. Likewise, an irate customer might be calmed by a long wait.
In a sense, it's in the interests of a call centre operator to let the phone ring for a while, irrespective of genuine workload.


When I worked for the university's call centre during clearing, we had no queueing system - instead we employed as many people as possible. Then, if everyone was busy, the call was redirected to voicemail and their call would be returned at our expense when someone was free. Furthermore we had to answer the phone within 3 rings.

Posted by Neil T. at February 12, 2005 05:55 PM

Yes; different situation and ethic. When selling something (including University places), call centres have somewhat greater interest in impressing potential clients than 'customer services' call centres dealing with admin matters and complaints.

Posted by NRT at February 12, 2005 08:08 PM
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