Acceptable Waiting Time?

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Call Centre Manager

The Private Clinic

Hi All

I know our aim is to answer calls as quickly as possible but is there a "industry average" time standard that is found acceptable for a client to hold i.e 10 sec before the call is answered?



Business Development Manager

Callback Services

In response to the question I do not believe there is an acceptable call wait time to queue that covers all industries / sectors. I would take a look back at your Abandon Rate and work out what the Average Time to Abandon is, that may give you a starting point to address the core problem for your own environment - an abandoned call is an unhappy customer and potential lost revenue.

One option to look at is to offer the callers the option of a callback say after 15 seconds on hold or when you know there is a queue building. For those who take the callback option they can be sure you will get back to them in the same time they would otherwise have been on hold. Good customer satisfaction levels, reduction in Abandon Rates and increase in sales revenues all result.


Call Centre Revolution

You have to think of why people call and how long they're prepared to wait. If you were calling to claim a prize you'd probably queue longer than if you were calling for a balance on your cheque account.


Call Centre Helper

The "target" industry average speed of answer seems to vary from around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds to 90% of calls answered in 10 seconds.

Principal Consultant

Qology Limited

It's completely industry - and even caller - dependent, but in general we're seeing average speed of answer and SLA targets actually increase in a lot of organisations, from the previously typical 20-seconds to 50- or 60-seconds.

These organisations have found that the difference in dissatisfaction levels between somebody who is answered in 20-seconds compared with somebody who has to wait 60-seconds is negligible whilst the cost of achieving the former during peak times is significantly higher.

Providing callers with an accurate expectation about how long they should be expected to wait along with respectful alternatives to waiting on hold - such as a callback - all help reduce abandon times.

From the contact centre point of view, of course, queues (real, holding calls or virtual) can be good: they keep staff occupied and afford the opportunity to offer a differentiated level of service to those customers you value the most by answering them more quickly than others.

As always, try to match your level of service with the overall experience your customers expect. If you're winning business based on a high quality version of a widely available product backed up by great advice and assistance answering calls quickly might be important whereas if you're competing on price or you have the "must have" product a longer hold time may be acceptable and have little impact on repeat business or metrics like net promoter score.

I've not heard anybody admit to keeping low value or costly customers deliberately on hold longer, but maybe somewhere...

Queues and holding times may be expressed as the inverse to the number of customer agents that the Customer is willing to pay for.

Director of Consulting

h2i Consulting Limited

My experience of this is the same as Jonty's the range is somewhere from 80% of calls answered within 20 secs to 90% answered within 10 with abandonment rate ceilings set at somewhere between 3% -5%.

It all depends on what image you want to give to your customers and whether you you want to differentiate yourself from the competition through service. Personally if it takes more than 3 rings before someone answers my call I start wondering whether I have placed my business with the right company, but when I first started out we had to make sure we answered calls within 3 rings or else.

And in those days I was working for a business that didn't have any competition and had the monopoloy in the market. Like Deborah Meaden during her talk at the Call Centre Expo, I also wonder whether there is something to be said for 'old fashioned' customer service.

Call Centre Manager

The Private Clinic

Thank you for all the information

We have decided to go for a combination of the following: % Call Loss, Avarage Answer Time and % of Calls answered under 20sec.

I think answring call within the first 3 rings is a bit unrealistic and the cost to acheive that out weighs the gains.


Director of Consulting

h2i Consulting Limited

Rick, just to reassure you, I wasn't seriously suggesting that you have an SLA to answer calls within 3 rings. What customers expected 30 years ago is not the same as their expectations today but it shows that progress doesn't necessarily mean an improvement. What really counts when it comes to service is: keeping wait times and abandonment rates to a minimum, keeping levels of IVR to a minimum and that the customer gets to speak to someone who is professional and trained to help them with their enquiry. Hope your new SLAs work for you.

VP Ops

iTouchPoint LLC


I think you got some great answers on your original post. I think slambert said it best and let me try to put this in practical term for you. Every ACD reporting package will let you see the % of customers abandoning by seconds. By analyzing this data, you will quickly see how long your customers will wait until they hang up. It is customer dependent and industry dependent, but most of the time, majority of customers will abandon within 30 seconds to 60 seconds. If you can identify an ASA that will get to most of these customers, then that should be your target ASA and abandon %.

Additionally, I would do semi annual customer satisfaction survey of your customer base. They are the best source of information for you to see if your SLAs and your quality delivery are set correctly. If you are answering your customer calls timely and you are providing the right customer service to your base, then the survey will reflect that fact. If not, you will get that fact too from your customers. Workforce planning, service level management and quality customer service are high wire acts that we must balance correctly to satisfy both the external customers and the internal customers. If you set and manage your customer expectations properly, you can run a low cost and high efficiency call center operation that doesn't have to be a 100% cost center for your company.

Good luck!


Sr Manager Operations

Idexcel Ltd

It all depends on the process you run and how important those customer are for you keeping in mind the cost . If you have prehistoric data ;have a look at it and you may get a clue out of it , frankly speaking lots of books will give you good number of idea's however it's you who need to take a call on customer delight, cost and capacity, experience and time will take you to the right solution

Now that Twitter is used a way to communicate with corporations, call centers should do well to monitor their hold times. Comcast has tried to move past their reputation for poor customer service (which earned them the hashtag #comcastsucks) but my hold time today was 30 minutes! Kudos to those call centers represented here that keep it under a minute.

Customer Director

Sometimes it how much a customer wants to make contact, Manchester United ticket lines have a wait time of upto 30 minutes with no abandoned calls!!!! interesting:)

Perfect holding time is 10 sec. Any thing more than that really displeases caller.

According to @kmcateer_1 callback after 15 seconds on hold is like an excuse.

A research on Forbes tells, any revenue call which is not responded quickly has a great chance of missing a sale.

Treating even a weird customer fairly makes a business remarkable.

Considering all the facts and figures, we built a solution ' Bounzd '- a perfect calling platform which kills long waiting period in addition with tracking all calls.

Over an hour on hold
I telephoned '01708xxxxxx' mid-afternoon and I abandoned the call after 1 hour and 10 minutes. Surely this is unacceptable.

Barbara Barker
8 years ago, 10 seconds is considered a long hold-time. 2018 society be damned !

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