How to Manage Customer Wait Times to Reduce Customer Frustration

Francis King
By Francis King
07 June, 2024

Improve your customer contact experience by managing customer wait times to reduce customer frustration

a sand clock with icons representing customers

Of all the most frustrating things that can happen when contacting customer services, customer feedback consistently puts issues related to waiting at the very top. Long waits and slow response times are perennial problems for customers and can cause intense annoyance. This is especially true for customers who are already anxious, angry, or upset (as is likely if they’re calling customer services). 

All in all, to improve your customer experience, build customer satisfaction, and boost customer retention, you need to tackle the issue of wait times head-on.

statistic what it the most frustrating aspect of getting customer service help
Image sourced from

Here, we’ll take a look at ways of reducing average wait times or, when that’s not possible, managing it to keep frustration levels low.

What causes long wait times?

There are various factors which can cause long wait times. Some causes can be dealt with, while others are harder to manage. 

Common causes of long or frustrating waits include: 

  • A high volume of calls/messages
  • A low staffing level
  • Unrealistic customer expectations
  • Complex issues causing long call-handling times
  • Poor call direction protocols clogging up the system
  • Particular problems or events sending customers flocking to their phones (for example, a universal glitch in an app will lead to a spike in call volumes)

How can you manage customer wait times to reduce customer frustration?

It’s not always possible to reduce wait times, especially during busy periods. But it is possible to manage those wait times in ways that cut customer frustration. Here are a few ideas that will help you to keep waits short, satisfying, or both:

Set reasonable expectations

People are likely to be more understanding of longer wait times if they’re expecting them from the outset. So, set reasonable and honest customer expectations. 

Things like a virtual assistant that can inform customers of their position in the queue, or AI that engages with customers and delivers live updates on wait times are great for setting expectations. Often, these will come as standard with virtual queuing software, so do your research when picking out your customer comms solution. 

If a customer knows they’ll be on hold for 30 minutes and they don’t have 30 minutes to spare, they can call back at a quieter time rather than waiting with increasing anxiety and frustration. This will have positive impacts both on your customer experience and on your call queue.

Don’t force customers to repeat themselves

an angry man shouting at his phone
Free-to-use image sourced from Unsplash

Waiting doesn’t just happen when customers first contact your service. It can also happen if you have to transfer their call to another colleague or service. 

This will increase the time your customer has to spend being in contact with you. That in itself is frustrating. But those frustration levels increase exponentially when your customer has to explain their issue or re-enter their details every time they get through to someone new.

So, where possible, use warm transfers rather than cold - that is,  talking a colleague through a customer’s situation before handing the call over. This means that the new colleague is prepped and up to speed with what the customer needs before they take over the call, saving the customer the hassle and frustration of repeating their issue yet again.

This is a simple but very effective way to counter a common source of customer frustration, to make wait times more palatable, and generally to improve your customer service.

Provide self-service options

Self-service can make a massive difference. As well as empowering customers to solve their own problems, it also slashes the demand on your human agents. With fewer people needing to talk to a human to sort their issues, your wait times will decrease and your system will become more efficient.

What’s more, younger generations (i.e., millennials and younger) often prefer self-service options over talking to human agents. They find self-service quicker, more convenient, and less stressful, and they’ll frequently choose the self-service route even if there’s no wait time to talk to a human. 

For this younger audience, it’s very important that your self-service options work on mobile. With the growing popularity of mCommerce (Mobile Commerce), it’s likely that the majority of your younger customers will be accessing your self-service options from mobile devices.

statistics self service kiosks and mobile app preferences
Image sourced from

That being said, it’s important to keep the “transfer to a human” option both open and obvious. Sometimes, self-service goes wrong or is more complicated than the customer expected. At that point, they’ll appreciate being able to get through to your human agents quickly.

For example, something like a software contract renewal can often be done by the customer without the need for human intervention—the customer simply checks the terms of their contract and clicks “agree.” 

However, there’s always the chance that the customer may disagree with the terms or want to negotiate their software contract. In such cases, it’s vital that they’re able to get through to a human who can help. 

So, make sure that your self-service options always have a shortcut to your human help team that’s prominently displayed.  

Consider wait times at the design stage

Think about wait times and how to mitigate and manage them right from the very beginning. Design your contact center, its website, and its systems with wait times in mind.

For example, if you’re building an online help center, you could provide links to a support hub or helpful videos that could troubleshoot common issues. On a more aesthetic level, embedding soothing or entertaining videos and graphics will make the wait for a customer service agent more interesting.

Even URL extensions can make a difference. For example, .support domains are primed for customer service and lend confidence that you’re dedicated to fixing your customers’ issues. Similarly, for a contact center dedicated to tech issues, .net domains have a “techy” reputation, which will nicely demonstrate your expertise.

Similarly, even though “.ai”  is the URL code for Anguilla, it gives an impression of technological sophistication through the association with artificial intelligence. So, are .ai domains good for companies that want to set expectations for a more tech-driven experience? Yes, under the right circumstances, they really can be.

It’s also important to optimize for mobile. Consider, for example, how incompatible it can be to ask customers to do things with their phone while they’re also talking on the phone. 

Asking a customer to take a picture, for example, could mean that they have to hang up on you in order to do so. If they then have to go through the queue and explain their situation all over again, they’re likely to end up very frustrated. 

Similarly, cell phone lock screens are likely to kick in during long waits. Sometimes, getting out of the lock screen could result in the customer hanging up. This is incredibly annoying for many customers. So, consider ways to either prevent this from happening or to keep phones engaged during wait times—perhaps via a simple game.  

stock image of person drawing a design on a piece of paper
Free-to-use image sourced from Unsplash

Have an appointment booking system

Rather than cold-contacting you, it can often be helpful to give customers the option to book an appointment. For longer or more complex conversations, customers will appreciate the option to schedule an appointment at a time that suits both them and you.

Good booking software lets customers pick a slot that will get them through to the right person straight away and schedule as much time as they need to talk through their issue or queries. 

They can also prime your agents with a quick description of what they want to talk about at the time of booking. This makes for a fast, efficient conversation without any tedious waiting on hold or lengthy explanations.

With TIMIFY, your customers can schedule appointments with a few simple clicks. TIMIFY is easy to embed in your website, your social media pages, messaging apps, and more. It’s incredibly simple to use and could revolutionize your customer communication system by banishing irritating wait times forever.

Make reducing wait time frustration a priority, and your customers will thank you

Contacting brands and businesses is a frequent source of frustration for customers. From long wait times to incomprehensible customer service systems, many customers find it a very negative experience.

Customers cite long wait times as one of the biggest annoyances they encounter when contacting brands. But, while it’s not always possible to cut wait times, it is possible to make long waits less frustrating for customers. 

From setting expectations to providing self-service options, there are many things you can do to improve your system and optimize your customer experience.

One of the very best things you can do is to give customers the option to book appointments. This empowers customers to speak to you at a time that works for both them and you and allows you to devote your time and knowledge to them without the stress of long call queues.

Francis King

About the author

Francis King

Francis is the Head of Demand Generation at OnlyDomains, a domain management solution that offers global services and support that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Francis has been a part of the team since 2009. He is our go-to guy for everything online advertising. Originally from Melbourne, Francis cannot go a day without lifting weights; he is considering taking on Jiu-Jitsu next. Here is his blog.

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