What Does Customer Service Wait Time Cost You?

When it comes to customer service, wait time is downright evil. It’s just ridiculous that we pay companies for their product and end up waiting to be served. We call about a billing issue and sit on hold listening to really bad music. We’re given a 4-hour “service window” for when we can expect a technician to arrive. We have to go looking for a store clerk to answer our questions then wait in a checkout line…. to give someone our money!

Waiting to be served is frustrating, wasted time. It’s time we’ll never get back. Studies say that Americans waste more than $100 billion worth of time per year, which amount to $900 per employee in lost productivity. All because they are waiting… waiting… waiting….

I recently asked our employees to put a personal perspective on customer service wait times and come up with the total number of days in their lifetime that they will wait for service. The results were both dumbfounding and enlightening.

On average, every Intradiem employee expects to spend an average of 123 days of their adult life on hold, in line or waiting for a service technician. That’s more than four months of their life spent waiting!

Now the kicker: even conservatively speaking and taking into consideration the “connected” population of the world today, this equates to more than 1 billion years of lost productivity for the human race! Just think for a moment what we human beings could do collectively with a billion years. Put a man (or woman) on Mars? End world hunger? Cure cancer? That and probably much more, if we just didn’t have to wait.

As consumers, we’ve come to expect having to wait. Because they believe they can’t fix it, or it’s too expensive to do so, organizations would lead us to believe that customer service wait times are necessary. But in a time of instant communication and response, customers are increasingly wary of barriers getting in the way of where they need to go and when they need to get there. And they’re getting to the point where they’re not going to take it anymore

A quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln says, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” As customer-facing organizations, we had better learn to hustle. To keep our customers — and keep them satisfied — we had better evolve our service models so we can answer customer service demands in real time.

As customers, we really only want two things: a speedy response, and accuracy in the answer. To do this we have to make sure that customer service agents are truly prepared and available to deliver on these needs. So demonstrate to your team that you really care about customers. Keep them engaged. Find time to train them. Enable them to respond – not react – to every customer interaction, in real-time. Make the frustrations of customer service wait time a thing of the past.

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About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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