Business is all about numbers and statistics, which is understandable as they are the only objective way of setting targets and measuring results. However, many aspects of customer service are not so easily quantified when they involve customers’ perceptions.

From those subjective experiences, none is more subjective than the perception of time, which perhaps explains why how long customers waited for a contact centre to answer their call is a chief complaint.

Should we conclude that there is a worldwide conspiracy by contact centres to make people’s lives a misery? Of course not! It is an established fact that customers’ perceived waiting time is much higher than real waiting time.

Unfortunately, there would be little point arguing with them that they haven’t waited as long as they think they have, but you can alter their perception of time.

Set expectations

Having to wait for an unspecified amount of time always feels longer so equip your contact centre with the technology to let customers know their number in the queue and when their call should be answered.

If you are facing a technical issue, say you are an internet provider and your network is down, have a recorded message play even before you give menu options to callers. Customers will therefore know that their problem is generalised and your message will have provided them with the information they needed without them having to wait or you having to answer the call.

Keep customers busy

The psychology of queueing was developed by Dr Richard Larsen and one of its statements is that unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, so the trick is to keep your customers busy. But not any kind of busy.

For example, don’t drag things on with call-avoidance messages. Customers know exactly what you are doing!

A common solution is to play music, but it isn’t without risk! If the music is too loud, too low, your customers don’t like what is playing or the sound is of poor quality, it will alienate them. And even the most beloved piece will become irritating if played over and over again.

Give customers a choice

Letting people know how long they will have to wait to talk to someone is a good way to make them feel in control as they can decide whether they’d rather stay in the queue or call back later. But there are even better solutions: you could invest in technology that keeps their place in the queue so that they can get on with life; or you could offer a call back at a time of their choice.

Although the technology has existed for a while, it isn’t widely available and it will definitely set you apart from your competitors and signal you as a company considerate of their customers’ time.