What is: Virtual Hold?

Posted December 14, 2011 by Leslie Dove / Good IVR, Voice Interface, Customer Satisfaction, Contact Center Technology, What Is?

"Thank you for holding. Your call is very important to us. All of our Customer Care Representatives are currently assisting other callers. Please continue to hold, and the next available Representative will answer your call." [Insert discordant hold music.] "Thank you for holding. Your call is very important to us. All of our Customer Care Representatives are currently assisting other callers. Please continue to hold, and the next available Representative will answer your call." [Insert discordant hold music.] "Thank you for holding. Your call is very important to us—"

Perhaps it’s the repetition of the claim “Your call is very important to us” that makes it ring so hollow when we’re on hold.

As the hold music and messages repeat, we’re left wondering: If my call is as important as they say, then why doesn't someone answer now? Or perhaps, while our calls may be considered important, our time is obviously not valued. We’re left sitting on hold listening to screeching music over the phone's speakers and fuming now not only about the issue we originally called about but also because we're losing valuable time waiting in a phone queue.

Thankfully, technology is around to make our lives better.

Virtual Hold technology allows a caller's "place in line" to be reserved. When it's their turn in the queue, the caller receives a call from the system and is connected to the available agent. Callers could also elect to receive a callback at a time that's more convenient for them. (This latter feature can also be used in out-of-hours queues, so that callers can schedule a time when the call center is open.)

Virtual Hold technology gets customers out of the infinite "Please hold" loop while still ensuring that every customer who calls is assisted. Instead of attempting to keep callers on the line and build a better queue experience, Virtual Hold solves the larger issue – of callers not wanting to be left waiting on hold – by eliminating the queue experience entirely from the caller's perspective.

Organizations with a strong emphasis on customer service are embracing opportunities to make life easier for their customers, and customers are responding. Southwest Airlines has implemented Virtual Hold, and one of their customers tweeted: “Companies: In an age of cell phones, don't make me sit on hold. Call me back when it's my turn, like Southwest just did."

At Vision Point Systems, we're continually looking for ways to improve existing processes. IT tools are there to make our lives easier and our customers’ lives better. With Virtual Hold, the contact center agents save time resolving problems (and deal with less frustrated callers), and the queue experience is improved because callers don’t actually have to wait in it! Instead of “take a number and wait,” the process becomes "take a number, take a load off, and we’ll call you back." The caller can use their time the way they want and make the most of their time. Customers appreciate that.

IT capabilities are a moving target, always improving, and constantly changing. We have to monitor industry changes because that’s what we do, but we must remember to keep the focus on the customer, not the technology. The question is not "how can I inflict this technology on my customer?" but rather "how can I serve my customer?" If you keep up with technology, you’ll be ready to serve your customer. Virtual Hold is an example of a simple concept that improves customer experience in a simple yet profound way.

Be on the lookout for chances like this to make life easier…for everybody!

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