There are few things I dislike more than waiting on hold. Like forced meditation, it makes my mind restless and edgy and anything but relaxed.

And yet there are times a phone call is necessary, particularly to deal with an urgent customer issue. As Forrester puts it, your customers don’t want to call you for support. But sometimes they have to do so.

Pick. Up. The. Phone.

In the past few days, I had to pick up the phone twice: once when a website failed to offer me an advertised sale price and again when my home warranty company tried to send out the same technician who has failed to diagnose an air conditioning problem twice before.

There were no self-service options to address these customer service issues. So the phone was my only option.

But the phone today is an escalation channel, an option we reluctantly use out of frustration and impatience.

So why, oh why, on both of these occasions, did the companies annoy me more with messages warning the wait to speak to a customer service representative would take more than an hour?

An unhappy customer can send a lot of negative tweets in an hour. Can’t companies understand it is foolish to open the door to that opportunity?

Long Hold Times: ‘A Friction Point’

Customer service guru Shep Hyken calls putting customers on hold “one of the worst friction points in a customer service experience.”

And yet, companies still can’t seem to figure out how to answer the phones. This is especially disconcerting in light of options like automatic callback, which gives callers the option to be automatically called back as soon as an agent is available instead of waiting on hold.

As Sandy H. wrote on Yelp:

After two lengthy sessions on the phone (hours of a life gone forever) they finally agreed to send a technician in 3 days with a 4 hour window of arrival. I could barely understand the technician’s English and couldn’t discuss options.

Then they extorted “protection” from me, just like the Mafia.  $8 a month for service “protection” or I have to pay $100 for every visit when their equipment doesn’t work. We all suffer torture from these companies!!

More Bad Phone Experiences

Sandy isn’t suffering alone.


I’ve been on hold for 10 hours and counting since I’ve bought the galaxy s8!!! I’ve tried different times different days and nothing. When I do get through all they do is transfer me to someone els and someone els every time.

They scam people with the promotion, on making them buy the product and then giving you nothing after. I regret getting a Samsung cell, never had this issue with AppleCare or apple products of that sort.

I have recorded people saying they will call me back. I have emails and screenshots of all this. If I could give them negative stars OH I would.


They canceled our flights 2 days before a trip to Italy to see our new baby granddaughter over a middle name issue that we paid $100 to fix and still lost our flights and $300 worth of seats. Never use a middle man and go to the airline for tickets.

My wife also had to spend 2 days on the phone with the worst  customer service I have ever seen. DO NOT USE TRAVELOCITY EVER!

Customers Want Live Support

It’s no secret customers want their problems resolved easily and to deal with representatives who know what they’re doing.

Just consider this data from Microsoft, which polled 5,000 adults polled in Brazil, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States for in its 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report.

When asked to define the most frustrating part of a customer service experience, the inability to reach a live person for customer support was the top complaint.

The potential brand damage from failing to quickly provide live support is huge. More than half of respondents say they have higher expectations for customer service today than they had one year ago.

What’s more, customer service impacts brand choice and loyalty for 96 percent of consumers globally.

“This number is simply too high to ignore – and there’s a major pay-off for brands that seize the opportunity. There is a direct correlation between superior customer service and brand loyalty, which means your customer service organization can be a key stakeholder of your customer acquisition and retention strategy,” it notes.

How Long Is Too Long to Hold?

No one has the time to be patient anymore. Back in 2014, an American Express survey suggested the maximum amount of time customers are willing to wait on hold is 13 minutes.

A study this year by Arise, a cloud-based customer management platform, found customers are far less tolerant. Arise conducted a Google Consumer Survey of more than 1,500 US consumers on Jan. 4, 2017 to find out how long customers are willing to wait for an agent before hanging up.

Almost two-thirds said they would wait two minutes or less and 13 percent said: “No wait time is acceptable.”

“The clear implication is customers want customer service on-demand, or will go elsewhere,” the Arise research concluded.

After wasting so much time myself in the past few days, I could not agree more.

Noreen Seebacher is the content evangelist at Arke, where she researches, writes and continues her long career in news reporting as a brand journalist. Noreen lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her husband, her dog and four formerly homeless cats.