Hang on a Sec!

Ever called a busy business and been instantly thrown into the depths of the dark, cold pit I call “Hold Hell” before you could utter a single word to properly defend yourself? How did we ever come to think that was a legitimate way to answer the telephone, let alone communicate that we’re a company that truly wants your business?

At LionSpeak, one of the things we specialize in is helping businesses and practices improve their telephone and administrative communication skills. One of the tools we offer is a Mystery Shopper Service and in the course of the last year, we have listened to and analyzed hundreds of calls. Most of the time, our clients are pleasantly surprised at how well their teams perform and score. But more times than you might imagine, they are sometimes shocked by the way their potential clients are handled. Fairly frequently, we hear the administrator spit out the company name like a rapid-fire machine gun and then click the hold button before our caller can say one word. So far, the record for the longest hold time we’ve heard is 7 minutes at the beginning of a call and a hold time of 3-4 minutes is not uncommon. It’s made doubly worse when there is no message-on-hold program or triple worse… it’s a staticky mess with an outdated message.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to use as a training tool and checklist for your team to improve your first impression for potential new customers and as a lasting impression for your current clients.

Never Do This:

  • Sound frazzled or harried… no matter how busy you are.
  • Tell a caller that you are “swamped” or “super busy right now.”
  • Put someone on hold without explaining the reason.
  • Interrupt a caller in mid-sentence to place them on hold.
  • Use slang terms like “Hang on a sec…”
  • Leave the caller on hold for more than two minutes without checking back in with them.
  • Ask them to call you back.
  • Put the person on hold multiple times during one call.
  • Be rude or lose your cool… no matter how the caller sounds.

Always Do This:

  • Ask permission to place a caller on hold. “May I place you on hold?”
  • Wait for their answer and then thank them before hitting the hold button.
  • Explain the reason for the need to place them on hold.
  • Give options like 1) holding for a few minutes while you finish with another client or 2) if the hold time will likely be more than two minutes, you will be glad to call them back within a timeframe you can honor. Over-estimate this rather than over-promise.
  • Let them know you are eager to help, and they are important to you.
  • Promise to return promptly, if they will be waiting on hold.
  • When you return to the call, thank the caller for their patience.
  • Frequently check your on-hold message to make sure it is current and always reflects the quality you want to project.

Most reasonable people anticipate that they can sometimes catch you at a busy time and will be understanding if they are treated properly. When you communicate, directly or inadvertently, that you are overly busy, you send the message that things are out of control in this business and you probably don’t need any more customers to make it even worse.

After a great initial greeting and listening to who is calling and why, a great way to place someone on hold could sound something like this: “Welcome to our practice, Sara! I’m just finishing up with one of our patients and will be delighted to help you next. May I place you on hold for a few moments or would you prefer for me to call you back within (five) minutes?”

Some of our clients handle a high number of emergency callers. For them, we recommend, “Welcome to our practice, Sara! I’m just finishing up with one of our patients and will be helping you next. Are you having a dental (medical) emergency, or would you be able to hold for just a moment?”

By respecting the hold button, your clients will respect and appreciate you. By using solid communication skills and committing to excellent client service, you will always land a solid first impression and open the door to a long-term client relationship.